Thursday, February 25, 2010

Up In The Air

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 23rd Dec, 2009
Time : 109 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Jason Reitman; Co-Writer : Sheldon Turner; Music : Rolfe Kent
Starring : George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride, Melanie Lynskey

I could’ve been George Clooney. His character, Ryan, in Up In The Air, I mean, not in real life (I wish !). All frequent air travellers will identify with the comfort of business class travel, the familiarity that awaits us when we take to the skies, the rhythms that guide us as before and after the journey. The film evocatively, delightfully and touchingly lets us travel with Ryan, get inside his head and judge for ourselves would we want to be him…

Ryan spent 43 miserable days last year staying at home. The rest of the time he was comfortable in his preferred environment, travelling his preferred airline, staying in his preferred hotels and driving his preferred Rent a Car. He has priority cards for all of the three and life would be very inconvenient if he couldn’t jump the queue, or get the special treatment he’s accustomed to. He fires people for a living. Walks into an office where he knows no one. And tells them they’re not needed anymore. He does this with a degree of honesty and a touch of bull-shit / spiel. At conferences he delivers a talk that he has patented, about a backpack. Which reflects his policy in life. Of carrying no baggage – no relationships, no commitments, no emotional baggage. No clutter.

Into this peaceful, content life, enter two women. He bumps into one, Alex (Vera Farmiga in the role of her life), in the bar of a hotel. She can match Ryan status card for status card. She travels like him, their schedules enough to test the programming algorithms of most PDA’s. She seems to be like him and seems happy to be with him. Make love, conversation, sms, talk on the phone without asking any questions. Ryan seems to be happier when she is around.

The other woman is Natalie. Young, bright, sincere. She works in Ryan’s office. She wants to introduce firing through videoconferencing. Save the enormous travel cost. She really believes it can work. Ryan’s boss seems to think so too. And grounds all his people. Ryan protests, insisting that Natalie doesn’t know what firing is about. That it cant be done via VC. He’s then told to take Natalie around, teach her how to fire. And then they’ll decide. So now he’s kind of stuck with her. And she’s not used to travelling.

Ryan’s life is about to change…big time…or is it ?

The movie works at several levels.

Depicting the beauty of air travel. The processes. The ways frequent travellers do it vs the occasionals. Till today, despite the many miles I’ve clocked, I still feel awe at watching an airplane take off. A big steel bird, weighing several tons. Ferrying people to & fro. Routinely, comfortably. This film captures this experience beautifully.

Its simple humour. From the flight attendants ‘would you like cancer?’ to the Maestro vs Hertz debate. From the discussion on ‘why do men love to put their name on things’ to the ‘flexibility’ of Alex. The honeymoon cutout. Little incidents dotted all over the film. Natalie telling her boyfriend over the phone that Ryan is older, she doesn’t think of him that way. Prompting a quick look in the mirror by Ryan. Etc etc.

It raises several broader questions. The nesting urge and how some men fight it or aren’t suited for it. The boredom of frequent travel. The empty hotel room after a long day. The lack of a familiar face in an unknown town. The refuge of drinks. The whole question of ‘why do kids love athletes?’. The cold ruthlessness of laying people off. The impersonality of it all, of such a job.

George Clooney is in top form in the film. Is likeable, smiling, understandable. Simple, uncomplicated. Looks and feels touchably real. Guy next door, not the Martini model or Mr Danny Ocean. Vera Farmiga looks every part the traveller having a fling. Looks lovely, desirable. The perfect antidote to every travellers boredom. Anna Kendrick stands out for her sincerity and her earnestness. Ill at ease at first, slowly gaining confidence. Peppered with self-doubt throughout as she tells people they’re not needed anymore.

The background music is excellent. Sets the tone for much of the film. The cinematography outstanding. Shooting cities from 30,000 ft up in the air can truly provide different perspectives. And even the most concrete of urban jungles can acquire a strange beauty from up there.

One of the ways I judge a film is how quickly do I want to show it / recommend the film to my wife. Loved ones. Family. Friends. And get their reactions. I cant wait with this one. It’s a must watch. Amazingly layered. Made for multiple viewing.


Meena said...

Agree with your rating totally on this one. The first half was so entertaining ( i hate these interval breaks that we get in India for even English movies which are just an hour and a half ). Loved all the "firing" scenes and the ease in which he does it - I wish i learn from that - probably he was helping people like me in the movie. But no doubt he is a killer guy.. with that killer smile and suave'ness. loved George clooney!
Btw - great review.

Sandip Chowdhury said...

"The perfect antidote to every travellers boredom".... hmmmm interesting thought though..

Divya Prakash said...

Another nicely written review by you ,would surely watch it .

Rohit Deep said...

Hmm.... I got bored and fell asleep. I like Clooney but the movie was slow and lazy. Had some good moments and I liked the overall concept but man was coffee needed through out the movie.