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Up In The Air
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Up In The Air – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a high-flying executive, whose job is to do what corporate bosses don’t have the guts or the hearts to do: firing employees. He does it by falsely promising the victims a new horizon in their immediate future.

Ryan Bingham is a loner, who enjoys his life-style. His main goal in life is to accumulate 10 million air miles. He is on the move 322 days per year. His one bedroom apartment, with naked walls and empty closets, lacks the warmth of a home; his real home is the airports and hotels, where he meets one of his ilk, Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), and forms a no-strings, steamy sexual relationship.

Ryan’s life style is jeopardised, when a geeky, Harvard graduate, Natalie (Anna Kendrick) shows up and convinces his boss, Craig (Jason Bateman) to cut costs by adapting to teleconferencing, to fire their victims down the line on a computer. Ryan resists but fails to change his boss’s mind. He ends up taking Natalie on an induction tour, where he demonstrates to her how the job is better done in person.

While on the move with Natalie, he seizes every opportunity to unite with Alex, to whom he gradually develops an affection that transcends bed acrobatics. He invites her to join him at his sister’s wedding, where he unites for the first time in years with his family and resolves a crisis when the groom gets cold feet on the day.

Ryan discovers new warmth and happiness with Alex: the untamed feeling of love. One day he drops everything and rushes to find her. Unfortunately for him, the source of happiness becomes the fountain of his misery.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Like Jason Rietman’s movies “Thank you for Smoking” and “Juno”, “Up In The Air” deals with profound and depressing cultural and societal issues at its core, but does so light-heartedly with a zest of delightful comedy. It touches on many subjects: happiness, loneliness, love, ambitions, family relations, hope and loss.

Ryan is seemingly a happy man – or he thinks he is – who shields himself from the turbulence of human emotions by disconnecting from humanity, including his family. When young Natalie, who is in love with her boyfriend and dreaming about producing kids, tells him that he will die alone, he retorts “My parents and grandparents died alone in day care clinics.” Indeed, kids these days are too selfish to care for aging parents.

Soon Natalie’s boyfriend breaks her heart by dumping her with a text message. Ironically, she was the one who advocated the adoption of the new technology of teleconferencing to fire hapless employees instead of facing them with the awful news. And then she resigns her job by sending a text message to – and consequently infuriating – her boss, who has also embraced her modern ideas of impersonal communication.

This is the sad truth about the modern man and woman. Technology saves us money, time and emotional effort, but also stripes us from our humanity and renders us cold, heartless robots. Like Ryan, we shelter ourselves from the inclemency of emotional challenges with our beloved electronic toys, which have become out best supporting friends.

Ryan’s physical connection with another human, Alex, gradually blossoms into untamed passion. Suddenly, a new, an unfamiliar sensation possesses him and renders all other worldly excitements irrelevant. It’s the intoxicating and hazardous felicity of love.

Suddenly, the man who advocated eternal celibacy seems doubtful when his future brother-in-law tells him that he is happier than all his married friends. “Every pilot need a co pilot,” Ryan tells him.

The problem is that when one chooses the wrong co-pilot, they risk sinking in an abyss of the most tormenting pain and anguish. Is it really worth it?
The film doesn’t give any easy answers. Everybody seems to be longing for something different, remote and unknown, to fill the voids in their lives. What make us happy? Is it the thrilling unpredictability of singlehood or the placid security of matrimony?

Ryan’s emotional journey is filled with joys and sorrows. In spite of the inhumane nature of his job, he is imbued with humanity. He is an honest man, a reliable colleague, a supporting brother and a gentle lover. It’s easy to like him and empathise with his predicament as he faces his existential crises.

George Clooney smoulders into Ryan’s character and delivers a captivating performance. His interaction with Vera Farmiga on the screen is electrifying. The two humour, charm and mesmerise us as they bounce their witty, sharp lines back and forth, like professional tennis players.

This is probably one of the most thought provoking and emotionally challenging films of the year. The story is compelling, the characters are fascinating, the performances are outstanding, the directing is impeccable and the music is exhilarating. It already is one of the major contestants for this year’s awards.

Opens Nationwide on 15th January 2010

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