Movie Review: Up in the Air (2009)

Don’t be fooled by the trailers for Up in the Air. It may seem like a formulaic romantic comedy. It’s not. Not by a long shot. Jason Reitman, following up his Juno breakthrough, has put together a finely developed and many times amusing story about choices — both personal and professional — and their consequences — planned and unplanned — to oneself and to others.

And it is these choices, for better of worse (depending on whose perspective you are looking from), that smooth talker Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is all about cashing in on. Coining himself as the “Termination Facilitator”, he zigzags across the country and delivers that dreaded zinger to employees — of whatever company that’s hired him — that they’re now out of a job. To you and me it would seem like a thankless job, but Bingham relishes his position and the freedom it affords him — i.e., no commitments.

In this role, Clooney shows, once again, why he is one of the more sought after actors on the planet. Reitman claimed he wrote the role specifically with Clooney in mind and without a doubt it shows. George sweats confidence and puts forth that swagger without being entirely egotistical that is needed for a man hired to fire people. He’s also able to pull off the opposite side of the spectrum equally well — Bingham is also one lonely son of a bitch even though he thinks he isn’t. A streak of fear runs through him too when he finds he himself may be shit canned.

That’s right what goes around comes around. Recent graduate and looking to make a name for herself, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) convinces Bingham’s boss Craig (Jason Bateman) that there is money to be saved by firing people via video conferencing. It stands to be a tidy sum of money when you stop to think the amount of layoffs occurring this day and age and that Ryan has nearly accumulated 10,000,000 air miles. Self preservation kicks in and he gets Natalie to tag along so she can see for herself that ironically it isn’t only about the bottom line — his “personal touch” is worth the price.

The other lady in Ryan’s life is quite nearly a mirror image of himself. Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) is a constant traveler too, finding herself living out of a suitcase most days of the year. And while both agree relationships complicate their lives; they alter their flight schedules so they can happen into one another for fleeting sex and camaraderie. She is wholly more complex than she lets on and the chemistry between the two is rather fresh and striking.

All combined, Up in the Air is a masterstroke. Reitman mixes the elements of drama and satire superbly; gets a great performance from his bankable star; and gets even better performances by his two lesser known actresses. And seeing as the film was released so late in the year, it is surely looking for Oscar consideration. Being such a fine movie, I can’t imagine it won’t earn a nod or two . . .

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
5 Star Rating: Fantastic


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm an old, miserable fart set in his ways. Some of the things that bring a smile to my face are (in no particular order): Teenage back acne, the rain on my face, long walks on the beach and redneck women named Francis. Oh yeah, I like to watch and criticize movies.

'Movie Review: Up in the Air (2009)' have 16 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 6, 2009 @ 5:32 pm Steven Smith

    I’ll partially agree with you that George Clooney is a good actor. The reason he is good though is because he always plays the same role type (paraphrasing from your review): “Confident with that swagger that isn’t entirely egotistical.” Take a look at his body of work and I think you’ll agree. Break him out of his comfort zone and I’ll bet he turns into a pumpkin.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 8, 2009 @ 2:57 am akira

    most recently i watched Men who stare at the goats movie where George Clooney acted very different character. in this time he plays in up in the air movie and it was really fantastic.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 11, 2009 @ 9:19 am General Disdain

    Steven –

    Clooney takes on all role types and, more often than not, does a fine job.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    December 20, 2009 @ 9:04 am Elmer Carlson

    Clooney performed well in this movie. Also, the movie is undeniably great that discussed layoffs.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 20, 2010 @ 2:41 pm Van Lines

    the chemistry between the leads was fantastic and anna kendrick’s performance was criminally underrated. I definitely see a nomination or 3.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2010 @ 8:35 am Katy

    I enjoyed the movie and thought the performances were great, especially Anna Kendrick’s. I also could see the “real” George Clooney in this role..I’m not sure if it took much acting at all. However, as good as the acting was, I thought most of the movie was predictable. In fact I “called” many scenes before they happened except the ending. I wish the ending was different..I thought is was terribly sad.

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2010 @ 4:26 pm JerseyMike

    For some reason, I couldn’t connect with this movie. I didn’t find it particularly interesting or engaging for me to give it high marks. I think Clooney did the part justice, but it was a-typical role for him…

    I just wished I liked the film more, I certainly wanted too…

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2010 @ 9:43 pm Jamie

    Just watched it and it was a very quiet film with good writing and excellent performances. I kinda liked how Reitman introduced the characters in the first half, the brilliant part of the film but in the 2nd half was a total…meh. Filled with cliches, poor pacing and visual editing. Anna Kendrick is definitely a scene stealer. She gave the best performance in the film, but her crying scene is really irritating. Vera Farmiga provided a very subtle and sexy work in here but I expected more. George Clooney is also very good as the central character, although there are some scenes that he bores me. Brillianr first half, mediocre second half. 9/10

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 7, 2010 @ 5:14 am country show

    Its fantastic movie. Its comedy is amazing. Jason Reitman done a great job for making this great movie.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 10, 2010 @ 6:21 am Jessica Jameson

    Up In The Air was the best movie I had seen in a while, I can say its the best in even maybe 5 years time – it gave me sooooo much mentally and Georg Clooney put the icing on the cake in this movie :)

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 1, 2010 @ 11:45 am FPP

    I’ve loved this movie. Seen it 3 times and i would still wacht it.

  12. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 20, 2010 @ 8:35 pm Reuben

    We weren’t sure if we would enjoy this movie since it dealt with people getting fired, however, we were pleasantly surprised. We found the characters to be interesting and the movie enjoyable. George Clooney and Anna Kendrick had wonderful chemistry.

  13. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 5, 2010 @ 4:45 am Thomas Angelo

    Great movie. Was in theater three times so liked it.
    I was stunned that movie with a budget of $25m could earn more than $158m (and statistics are growing)
    Recommend to all who want to relax and have a good time with friends

  14. The Critical Movie Critics

    October 5, 2010 @ 8:51 am Miwa Portnoy

    Hell yeah! Sure it`s great! Seen it only once, but have a strong impressions for a long time. Only District 9 could beat it. (don`t blame – I know that these movies in different genres. I mean impression)

  15. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 4, 2010 @ 4:34 pm Mephisto

    I liked this movie personally. I think Clooney is one of the funniest actors out there at the moment. He tends to be basically the same character in most of his movies. A guy who is in control, but is slightly crazy. Maybe a better term would be off the wall. I would rate this film a 8 out of 10 stars. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  16. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 8, 2010 @ 6:25 pm CMrok93

    A well-acted piece about a man’s inability to cope with a world more real than the one he lives. And the screenplay just keeps on getting better and better. Nice review, check out mine when you can!

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