The pitch-perfect and subtle nuances, the ebb and flow of the characters, and the technical craftsmanship of director/co-writer Jason Reitman combine to form a poignant story about relationships.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) jetsets from city to city as a sort of corporate hitman. Companies pay him top dollar to do the dirty work of firing employees. It’s strategic in a sense — the company brings in a ringer bearing the bad news, and Bingham has a way of turning negatives into logical positives.
His uncanny knack for getting into people’s personal space while remaining professionally distant comes from years of practice — he has no real relationships outside of work. He’s forsaken all human relationships for a life spent in the air with dreams of becoming a member of the airline’s prestigious 10-million frequent flyer mile program, a feat that will give him executive privileges and his name on the side of a plane.
When upstart Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), perhaps aptly named, develops a plan to save the company money by grounding all the employees, Bingham takes her under his wing.
Bingham teaches Keener the corporate-downsizing ropes, but he can’t help her gain friends or keep her boyfriend. He’s a man so detached from his family that his sister asks her fiance’s uncle to walk her down the aisle. Ultimately, Bingham is forced to follow his heart and chase the love of his life, but the entanglements are complicated.
Up in the Air is unpretentious while dramatic, breezy but weighted — the characters don’t just talk about who they are, they show it. It’s the way Bingham looks at a board full of pictures, or the calmness exhibited by a terminated worker who explains how she’ll commit suicide. The movie is a discourse on human to human interaction and the influence, good or bad, we have on each other.
It’s near flawless in execution, and it’s so personal, it comes close enough to touch.