I was having a hard time thinking of an opening for this review (probably why I don’t do this for a living… yet), so I thought I’d read what Roger Ebert had to say, as I respect his opinions a great deal. I was pondering making a comparison to The Messenger because both that film and this one feature characters who travel around and give people bad news. It seemed like a good intro. So I was both slightly annoyed and slightly pleased to read Ebert making the exact same comparison in his review of Up In The Air. On the one hand, I don’t want to see like I’m just parroting him, so now I’ve got to come up with another opener. On the other hand, it’s cool to know we’re operating somewhat on the same wavelength. But all that being said, I’m about 150 words into this post and I still haven’t started reviewing yet. So, take two…
Jason Reitman’s newest film Up In The Air doesn’t quite live up to the abundant hype it has generated, but, helped along by a trio of great performances, it comes pretty close.
George Clooney fits perfectly for his role as Ryan Bingham, a man hired by large corporations to fly around the country and fire people (excuse me, let people go). It’s a life lived perpetually on the road. He has no time for meaningful relationships, and no real plans for the future aside from the hope of one day collecting 10 million air miles, which he then has no particular intention of using. This probably sounds pretty dreary but thanks to some very quick and polished editing, the scenes of Bingham checking out, packing, going through security checks, boarding flights and renting cars are almost dizzying to behold.
Despite his dedication to efficiency, it’s clear from the outset Bingham has no sense of a greater purpose in life. He’s going nowhere in a hurry, happy with his job and his lifestyle. And as we see in a scene featuring a cameo by J.K. Simmons, he is most definitely good at what he does. There’s a lot more to it than simply booting former employees out the door, and the film does a good job of showing that. These scenes are some of Clooney’s best as he skilfully moves from blunt dismissals to words of cautious encouragement depending on the reactions of the people he’s been brought in to handle.
The scene with Simmons is one of many in Up In The Air featuring a performance by a great actor in a small role. Among others in bit parts are Jason Bateman, Sam Elliott and Melanie Lynskey, just to name a few. Using fine actors like these for peripheral roles seems a bit of a waste at first, but ultimately what it means is there are no weak links in the cast. There’s never a scene dragged down by a poor line reading and the script is solid, so the film moves along nicely.
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