Companionship. Independence. Loyalty. Flyer miles. All are a part of the life of George Clooney’s corporate downsizer in the timely, and timeless, Up in the Air.
Dissect Clooney’s career, and this will surely be his golden period. From Syriana, to Good Night & Good Luck, to Michael Clayton, Clooney has developed a filmography few movie stars could match in terms of credibility and success.
Now with Up in the Air, Clooney hits the peak of his prowess with a role that he owns in every instance, hitting all of his string abilities (charm, intelligence) while pulling out additional ammunition from his undervalued acting arsenal.
He stars as Ryan, a career terminator loaned out to employees who don’t have the testicular fortitude to fire their employees.
Ryan belongs to that breed of people who love to live out of their suitcase. A man of opposites, he displays unconditional loyalty to his job, and his mission in life - to obtain as many frequent flyer miles as possible – is pursued with intense consistency.
Yet loyalty towards people is another matter: friends and family are excess baggage, and nothing more. His one true companion is the road (or in this case, they sky) which Ryan commits to with religious fervour, with the airport his church, and baggage claim his ritual.
This all changes with the introduction of two women in his life.
The first is Alex, a fellow travelling workaholic, played by Vera Farmiga with the type of sass and sexuality that even makes a player like Clooney blush.
The second is Natalie, a young go-getter portrayed by Anna Kendrick. She proposes to revolutionize the business of firing people though the use of cold, artificial technology. This does not sit well with Clooney’s Ryan. After all, even executioners add a personal touch to their job.
If a claim were to be made that Up in the Air features the best acting ensemble of the year, it should not be seen as an overstatement. Kendrich, in particular, is a delight, pulling off annoying, endearing, wise, ignorant, and sympathetic at ease, and often at the same time.
It is the writing and direction by Jason Reitman which makes it all so good. Whether coincidental or not, Reitman has put together a powerfully relevant film for these post recession times.
But this is no zeitgeist tainted commentary on the financial and employment woes in America circa 2009. Unlike, say, the already dated Diablo Cody teen talk of Reitman’s previous Juno, this film has the materials to not only stand up to multiple viewings, but it has potential to be just as good in a decade from as it is today.