"Never get behind old people. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left."
This doesn't happen very often, but I can describe my impression of this movie in one word... and that word is "refreshing." Up in the Air is a truly great movie to watch, the pacing is spot on and the story is very well grounded in reality. I suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that a movie starring George Clooney is down to earth, but it's still nice to see. General consensus on Rotten Tomatoes appears to agree with my assessment as the movie currently has an 89% rating.
The movie centers around Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a man who's career is spent flying around the country firing employees for companies who are too timid to do it on their own. As such he spends his entire life on the road, his 'home' is a tiny and sparsely furnished one bedroom apartment. He lives for his work, and loves the lifestyle, at least until he meets a fellow traveler Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga). After a spending some time together, at least when their schedules put them in the same city, Bingham begins to question his life and begins to suspect he might like a more permanent companion. Add to this the fact that Binghams company have hired a young hot shot named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) to redesign their entire business. The concept: employees will no longer travel the country, instead they will do all their firing over teleconference. Bingham does not take too kindly to being grounded and challenges his boss on the issue. The result of this is that Bingham is lumbered with and takes her along so she can learn the intricacies of his work.
The atmosphere of the movie is very similar to that of Michael Clayton, another fine work starring Clooney, in that it has a very gritty tone. Once again let me point out the fact that the movie feels very real. The story is not romanticized, there is no sunshine Hollywood style wash on this movie, which I feel is something sadly lacking in modern cinema.
There is some great comedy on display, the dialog is lightening fast and you can tell the actors are having a lot of fun. Clooney and Kendrick are terrific on screen and play off each other very well, the casting here was spot on. He also has nice chemistry with Farmiga, I could believe there was something between the two characters which adds a lot the overall performance. Up in the Air also does a good job of balancing the drama. Some situations really make you wince as you realize what is about to happen, others make you sad as you realize how detached Bingham really is (even from his own family).
As I said, the pacing is excellent in this movie. Not once did I glance at my watch to see how long was left. Each scene flows seamlessly into the next and there was no evidence of any jarring cuts or continuity issues that often plague movies today. Overall the presentation and the story are truly superb, to the point that I wish more movies today displayed such a level of quality (Cough**Avatar**Cough).
Finally I want to say a little about the ending. Without giving too much away, the ending was very refreshing as it was a lot more true to life (in fact the whole movie was as well) and did not fall on one of those typical happily ever after endings that I find rather irritating. I enjoy some reality on the big screen and it's nice that they went with that for this ending. I know this movie is based on a book, but sadly I have not read it so I cant comment as to how faithful a recreation this is, or if the ending in the book is the same, but it is something I am interested in finding out.
Overall this is a really nice movie that touches on themes of home, belonging, family and loneliness. The screenplay is wonderful, the acting is top notch and the casting is terrific. If you are on the fence about this one, just do yourself a favor and go see it before it leaves the theaters.
Final Verdict on Up in the Air: