I’ve been trying to think of how to talk about Up in the Air since I watched it a on Monday. There’s something pretty astonishing here, but the more I think about it, the harder it is to pin down. I think that might be because the film subverts the expected clichés so thoroughly, that the normal way of talking about such things becomes a little more difficult.
So, Up in the Air. It’s a comedy, except it isn’t. It’s a drama, except it isn’t that either. I guess then it’s a people film, but then it only really centres around one person, and the few people that get anywhere near close to him. So.. it’s this film about lots of things, and they all work really rather well together.
Of course, it’s being pegged as a comedy by those wonderfully omniscient marketing people who know exactly how to pinpoint demographics and get them all flooding to the stands, but I only really found myself amused a few times. The concept is simple; we follow Ryan Bingham, whose job is to fly all over America and the world doing company’s dirty work for them; firing their employees when they don’t have the balls to do it themselves. It’s a thankless job, but he sees it more as a duty to provide the easiest cushion for them to land on. In his words, ‘Everyone who ever built an empire sat where you do now.’ He’s providing opportunities, not firing people.
But that’s not the point. While it does provide a nice backdrop for the film, the real story centres around Bingham not because of his job, but because of the man it creates. He’s isolated, a one man island floating around the sky and sleeping in first class. He’s got checking in and checking out of airports down to a fine art, knowing exactly which groups of people he should be slipping in behind to get through as quickly as possible.
I suppose the entire film can be summed up by one moment that just comes as a complete shock. The entire film builds up towards something, then at the final moment, just as you expect it all to end and be lovely, it just isn’t. The illusion is shattered, and instead of having Bingham changed into someone who isn’t quite so isolated, he realises his isolation is the best thing about his life. And because of that, it just becomes so much more real and believable.
The other quite astonishing thing about it is the people being fired. There’s a bunch of famous actors such as JK Simmons slipped in there, but the vast majority is made up of people who were really fired, asked to say what they said upon hearing the news, or what they wish they’d said.
Regardless, it’s an absolutely brilliant film, from the writer director of ‘Thank You for Smoking’, another brilliant film, and is entirely worth your time.