Director Jason Reitman is certainly on a roll following up two excellent films, "Thank You For Smoking" and "Juno" with what may serve as his best film yet, "Up In The Air." The film is a beautifully shot and acted movie about a man's choice to happily isolate himself from the world by devoting himself to his work, travel and the luxuries that come with first class, as well as choosing not to marry, settle down, have a family or even keep any friends besides co-workers, family of which he still tries to avoid and the occasional one-night stand. The movie elegantly introduces us to this world through a purposely-stale tone that matches the coldness of the airports and hotels that the lead character travels in. George Clooney once again gives an incredible performance as the work-centered, unapologetic, bachelor-for-life. Sound familiar? Clooney gives a performance that acknowledges his awareness of the similarities between his own life and the character's while still creating a different person from himself that you completely believe in. The movie is humorous and touching while giving you an inside look to the fascinating world of this traveling loner.
In the film, adapted from the novel by Walter Kim, Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a man who travels around the country to terminate corporate employees. Often Ryan will deliver motivational speeches about the virtue of a relationship-free life and he cherishes the comfort of being anonymous during his constant travels. He does not, nor thinks he wants, a personal life and instead just numbs himself with sex, booze and drugs. His only sort-of-relationship is with a fellow traveler, Alex played by the wonderful Vera Farmiga who meets him in different cities when their travel schedules cross for drinks and sex but who's life is otherwise a complete mystery to him. Ryan's job is to travel to different cities and deliver the worst news possible to people ... he fires them. He's the guy that the company hires to tell you that they are letting you go. With no remorse Ryan executes his job with perfection and is the best at what he does.
However, his world is turned upside down when his boss, played by the talented Jason Bateman, tells him that soon he will no longer travel but instead work out of the home office in Omaha, Nebraska. Apparently a young, know-it-all at Ryan's company, Natalie Keener played by Anna Kendrick, devises away to cut down on cost by canceling travel in favor of firing via the internet. This of course infuriates Ryan who demands a little more time in the field. His boss agrees but only if he takes Natalie with him to show her the ropes. As Natalie slowly learns from Ryan the gravity of their job he continues to meet with Alex while taking pictures of his sister and her fiancés cardboard-cutout in front of famous monuments as part of a gift for their wedding. When Ryan and Alex attend his sister's wedding he begins to experience a life that he has never known, one of love and family. But when Ryan finally decides to take things to the next level with Alex he learns a secret that will change their relationship for good. With the job he loves coming to an end and no personal life or love to speak of Ryan truly finds himself at a cross-road and his life "Up in the Air."
Without a doubt this movie lives or dies on the performance of George Clooney, luckily he happens to be one of the finest actors around so the film definitely sours. His performance is truly amazing when you realize that he is pretty much in every frame of the film, the camera is almost never-not on him and he carries it off with relaxed ease. Again, the character is similar to the perceived public persona that Clooney has but never for once think that this guy isn't acting his butt off on screen because he's working very hard to make it look like he's not working at all. His performance is so layered with vulnerability and sadness underneath his brash bravado that it really is an exceptional performance and one that will easily attract Oscar consideration this awards season. He truly creates a character that not only mirrors him but also mirrors us all so when you're watching him you can really relate to whom this man is and why he wants to live this way. It is truly a commanding and powerhouse performance by the popular actor.
All of the other actors are equally wonderful in their roles including Bateman and Farmiga, who also deserves Oscar consideration for her supporting performance. Anna Kendrick, hot on the heels of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," is particularly good as she was able to create a character that fully annoys you while making you genuinely root for her at the same time. In addition, Zach Galifianakis, Danny McBride, Sam Elliott and J.K. Simmons give excellent, if somewhat limited performances. The soundtrack is great and adds to the tone and mood of the film rather than taking away. Reitman's direction and script is spot on and as sharp as can be. Reitman is truly turning out to be one of the most accomplished and successful young directors around and he certainly deserves it. He commands the camera with authority and leaves you with breath-taking shots that not only tell a story but also paint an artful picture. By far one of the best films of the year, "Up In The Air" is a smart, touching and funny comedy that will make you evaluate your own life and take stock of what is important to you so you don't find your life suddenly ... up in the air.