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"up In The Air" Soars With Top Flight Cast And Script

Up in the Air is another winner for George Clooney

, the consummate movie star who brings his usual top-flight brand of intelligence to every project he chooses. Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a downsizing specialist that corporations hire to conduct clean, preventive-retaliation layoffs. Ryan is pleased to spend most of his life up in the air remarking that he is in reach to claim ten million flyer miles. In another observation of himself, he only spent 43 days home in Omaha in the past year. "To know me is to travel with me" is one of his zingy lines.

Ryan travels light, both literally and figuratively. No family baggage in other words. What Clooney does so memorably, and easily, is project this dominant superiority complex which makes it effortless for him to fire people for a living. This attribute allows him a certain detachment from the rest of the human race those who are dumped are saps, they are beneath him.

As another travelling professional, Alex (Vera Farmiga) is a female equal with the noticeable masculine name. When they first meet at a hotel bar, Alex senses Ryan's play at seduction and throws a bunch of witty verbal obstacles at him. No problem for Ryan as he suavely rises to the occasion by using his persuasive speaking skills (he also lectures at seminars) to seduce Alex a transcontinental affair begins.

Back home things are changing at the company when a fresh out of graduate school efficiency expert named Natalie (Anna Kendrick) convinces boss Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman) to use computer interfaces to fire people. This would eliminate the need to fly Ryan and other employees to company on-site locations. This also gets rid of airfare and hotel costs as Natalie makes Craig see it.

Ryan debates a multitude of reasons why human interface is needed in the hatchet business. His next tour of duty could be his last, and he is asked to take Natalie under his wing to train her, if not, orientate her to the business. Perhaps convince her that all her proposed ideas are wrong.

At this point, you think that the film will propose that this is going to be a battle of wills between Ryan and Natalie, as on the road they try both his way and her way. Ryan is outright the stronger and more forceful one in this relationship.

What occurs are transitional scenes of Ryan proving to Natalie what a tough business it really is (in several instances there are clipped montages of employees suffering the indignity of being let go). Which opens up the plot hole: Couldn't Craig and the rest of the executives foresee that Natalie's new strategic plan was going to backfire? You wonder if you are going to get a scene of a laid-off employee going ballistic and throwing the computer monitor across the room.

"Up in the Air" is the kind of movie you love anyway despite of one glaring flaw. It's a relationship comedy, a cold technology replacing humanity comedy, and a socio-economic comedy that offers much human insight and observation. It is also nevertheless about the Ryan Bingham type that can roam freely without being tied down, and Clooney is nuts-and-bolts perfect as the roamer who fails to see the need for commitment.

In the romance angle, Clooney and Farmiga have lots of spark and heat. You must remember Farmiga as the police psychiatrist in "The Departed." She exudes maturity, brains and allure in every scene. While we're at it, let's remind ourselves that this is the Clooney we know from "Out of Sight" or "Ocean's 11," the guy who exudes charm and panache.

In any movie of this kind of contemporary candor, you have to expect complications to come up and not make things so easy, cookie-cutter for these two and the script summons an essential twist. What happens between the two of them is subtle, and disquieting to say the least.

We also have director Jason Reitman ("Thank You for Smoking," "Juno") to thank for bringing such sharp and intelligence entertainment to the screen. "Up in the Air" takes us all over the map and does it in a multi-layered way that is satisfying and memorable.

by: Sean Chavel
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