MWN Goes to the Movies – Up In The Air
(Editors note: This article contains minor spoilers for Up In The Air, all of which can be found after the jump)
Today I was lucky enough to head down to London to the BFI London Film Festival to attend an early screening of Jason Reitman’s new film Up In The Airwhich has quickly become one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, Up In The Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham (Clooney), a frequent flyer who travels around America firing people from companies who don’t have the gall to fire their own staff. Whilst travelling Bingham has his own personal goal that he’s trying to reach, flying 10 million miles to join an elite club that only seven others before him have reached, his plans are thrown into jeopardy when he meets Alex (Farmiga) another frequent flyer who he begins to fall for after several layover encounters. His plans take a further when he’s asked to train Natalie (Kendrick) who’s new system of firing people using video conferencing threatens to ground Ryan for good.
The acting is fantastic across the board and Clooney’s solid performance in the film has further cemented my belief that I would listen to this man read the bible. Whilst the role isn’t amazingly different from anything you’ve seen him in before but Reitman has clearly chosen Clooney for role because of his own bachelor lifestyle, Ryan is surrounded by people who have long since settled down with families and kids and loves his job because it keeps him isolated from all of this and is slowly coming to realise what he really wants from life. VeraFarmiga is great as what your lead to believe is essentially a female version of Ryan, a frequent flyer who has isolated herself from the the rest of the world by travelling all of the time, whilst that’s not entirely true to say much more would spoil some of the films more dramatic moments. The film is stolen by Anna Kendrick who plays Ryan’s protégé Natalie, whilst she believes firing people is simply a case of telling them to get out of the door and her rise up the corporate ladder will be a quick one, a couple of weeks on the road with Ryan convinces her otherwise. Kendrick not only makes the role very believable, she also makes the role very identifiable for anybody under the age of 30 that see the film, she has a plan and she’s going to stick to it so when that plan begins to unravel, so does her life or at least that what she starts to think. The rest of the cast is filled out by regular Reitman players including J. K. Simmons, Sam Elliott and Jason Bateman, who plays Ryan’s dickish boss Craig and an incredibly funny cameo from The Hangover’s Zach Galifianakis. A special shout out has to go out to Danny McBride who plays Ryan’s prospective brother in law, Jim. Whilst it’s only a small part, it’s a long way from the typical loud mouth, obnoxious comedic roles he typically plays in films like Hotrod, Foot Fist Wayand HBO’s Eastbound and Down, here he pulls off one of the films more dramatic roles fantastically and I hope that he does more roles like this, I was surprised to find out the guy really can act.
It’s Natalie’s plan that makes up one of my favorite scenes in the movie, her long term boyfriend has just broken up with her via text message and she is left distraught, Ryan and Alex take her for a drink in the hotel bar to try and console her and Anna proceeds to tell them about her ‘plan’. She’s 23 and planned to at least be engaged by now, corner office by day and entertaining guests by night, kids weren’t too far away and she was looking forward to living a peaceful life by a lake when the children are born even going as far as to name the makes of cars that her and boyfriend would be owning by then. Ryan and Alex are sat opposite her like parents consoling their daughter the first time her hearts been broken, they proceed to explain to her that once you get to 30 plans and time-scales go out of the window along with that perfect image of a partner and you just need to focus on finding someone who makes you happy.
Watching this scene was like therapy, like most people growing up I had a pretty specific plan of where I was going to be by the time I was in my mid-twenties and things haven’t worked out exactly like I thought they would so it was like looking at myself on screen when Natalie is pouring her heart out to these two older people who also had plans when they were younger only to see their plans pass them by forcing you to delay your plan or changing them entirely, it’s heartening to know that you never really change you just learn to appreciate what you have rather than what you want.
The film is beautifully shot by Reitman and his cinematographer Eric Steelbergfeaturing some amazingly retro looking aerial shots that really do remind me of the days when air travel was still a glamorous pastime. The airports and hotels in the film are never really shown to be busy or crowded which I quite like because to me at least it seems to represent this public isolation that Ryan seems to live in, only becoming noticeably busier as Ryan opens up and lets more people into his life. Ryan’s life is so precise that packing and making his way through the airports are quick and exact movements that Reitman cleverly shows using quick cuts in a way an action director will show the hero tooling up for the big fight at the end of the film, it’s an amusing juxtaposition when Natalie first appears who clearly hasn’t travelled for business before with Ryan giving her lesson in efficient travelling and the quickest way to get through airport security.
I loved this movie and I’m so grateful that I got to see 3 months before it gets it’s general release in January in the UK, the US gets a limited release from the 4th December and if it’s showing in a town near you I really can’t recommend the film enough, it’s one of the funniest most touching films you’ll see this year and it’ll certainly leave you plenty of things to think about, go see it.