Plot: What’s it about?
George Clooney has emerged as, literally, the King of Hollywood. He’s one of the most respected actors out there, he’s both critically and commercially acclaimed and it would seem that the man can do no wrong. It doesn’t hurt that pretty much all women (and some men) swoon over his good looks, either. So when Mr. Clooney takes on a project, you can better believe that it’ll be a notable project and one that’s worth your time when you see it. Such is the case for “Up in the Air”, a romance movie of sorts that is a veritable snapshot of corporate America in the 21st century. For those that don’t know, the film was directed by Jason Reitman, director of “Thank you for Smoking” and “Juno” and son of film director Ivan Reitman. “Up in the Air” was also one of the ten nominees for Best Picture but lost out (as did eight others) to “The Hurt Locker”. We’ve bought Clooney as a singing fugitive in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”, an ex-con with a heart in “Out of Sight” and the most likable casino thief in the “Ocean’s” films. So how does Clooney work when he’s on the right side of the law, albeit firing people?
We meet Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) as he’s traipsing through any airport in America. His job is, quite simply, to fire people in the corporate world when their bosses are to afraid to do it. He’s good at this job, has the routine down pat and can stand getting yelled at and being told he’s got no soul. More importantly, he loves his job. Loves it! He’s on track to achieve one of his dreams – to get 10 million frequent flyer miles. He’s on the road (in the air) some 240 days out the year and his shell of an apartment in Omaha is about as impersonal as a prison cell. His life is turned upside down, however, when a fresh young face by the name of Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) comes up with a plan to save the company money. She proposes to have the firings done by video conference, thereby saving the company oodles of money. This is one of a few sub plots and the other is when Ryan meets Alex (Vera Farmiga). Alex is like the female version of Ryan. The two hit it off and despite all of Ryan’s attempts to lead a commitment-free life, we see that he actually does have a heart.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a pretty spot on assessment of what it’s like in the corporate world these days. Companies are laying off tens of thousands of people and someone’s got to be there to fire them and hand out their benefits package. Clooney plays the role with a unique sincerity that’s very believable and his supporting cast isn’t exactly shabby either; with the top three billed actors all up for Academy Awards (all three lost). “Up in the Air” shows us that although you can be surrounded by people every second of every day, it’s the personal relationships that make life worth living. You can have the best suits, the nicest cars, be a member of every frequent flyer club in the book, but if you’ve no one to share it with then what good is it all? This is a philosophy that Ryan Bingham not only lives by, but also endorses as he goes around as a motivational speaker. I loved “Up in the Air” and though it might not be too relevant years from now, right now it is. A great cast and outstanding performances by all, a must see.
Video: How does it look?
We get to see “Up in the Air” in a 1.85:1 AVC HD transfer that appears to be a bit on the grainy side. The opening credits are obviously stock photos that show us the landscape from an airplane’s point of view (naturally), but as the film progressed there was a bit of grain to the transfer that I wasn’t expecting. Granted it’s not that bad and I highly doubt anyone out there will be displeased with how this looks, but I was expecting a bit better. Colors are strong an bold, contrast is on target and black levels are as well. For a major studio film, I was expecting a bit more from “Up in the Air” but don’t let this deter you, it still looks pretty darn good.
Audio: How does it sound?
The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack isn’t exactly the most robust out there. Surrounds weren’t very active and, by and large, this is a very dialogue-driven film. That said, the vocals are exceptional with no distortion in the least. The front stage takes the brunt of the audio and handles it very nicely. Don’t let the label fool you “DTS Master Audio” isn’t always synonymous with “amazing sound”. So, like the video, I was expecting a bit more from the audio but again – it’s not bad in the least, just not outstanding or something memorable.
Supplements: What are the extras?
“Up in the Air” comes with just enough supplements to warrant a purchase and we start off with a very engaging track by director Jason Reitman and a few of his collaborators. We get some information on the shoot, the airports used in the film (hint: not as many as you’d think) and of course working with the almighty George Clooney. Reitman’s comments are insightful and articulate. It’s a good track. We get a brief look at the company that did the opening credits and learn they’re the same ones that worked on both “Juno” and “Thank you for Smoking”. Also included are a dozen deleted scenes, an American Airlines prank and the original teaser and theatrical trailer.