Film Review: Up in the Air

I was on my way to another business hotel so I decided to download a relevant film I’ve been meaning to catch since its release six years ago.  Aside from wondering what on earth I could have been doing these past six years the question to be asked is: was my decision to download a good use of the free Caffe Nero wifi?  And the answer is: yes.

George Clooney is Ryan Bingham, a frequent flyer nearing a landmark in airmiles that few have reached, whose job is to go from city to city breaking the bad news to folk who’ve just been made redundant.  His home is the Hilton in whatever town he’s in, he gets their via American Airlines and he rents from Hertz.  He lives for the automated customer service and fake bonhomie of the corporate travel – and he also gives talks entitled “What’s in your backpack?” in which he advises tired looking people to give up that which weighs them down.

Into Ryan’s world come two women.  Alex Goran, played by Vera Farmiga, who advises Ryan to “think of me as you, but with a vagina”, and Natalie, a recent graduate whose decision to propose the new technology of web communication threatens to end Ryan’s endless flight.  Anna Kendrick is Natalie.  The three leads put in such strong performances that at times it threatens to make the film look lazy – or at least easy.  But none of these characters are going to automatically attract our sympathy or interest and the fact that they do is in no small measure due to the quality of the acting.

There’s also a decent script, a diverting and not-quite-what-you-expect plot (although, slight spoiler, when someone walks up unannounced to a doorway expecting great things we know it’s not going to happen), and some absolutely note-perfect use of setting and location.  Business life is made to look both charming and seductive and alienating and lonely.  The film doesn’t quite have the courage of its convictions and pulls a few punches at the end, but it’s a surprisingly engaging, deep and fun Hollywood film.

It’s also a bit dated.  I may be wondering what I’ve been doing in the past six years but six years is prehistory to this kind of life.  Hell, this is so old people are typing emails on a Blackberry.  Nobody checks in to social media, there’s no FaceTime and not one person downloads a film using a coffee shop’s free wifi and kills time watching it on a tablet.  It might as well be in sepia.

That it still connects despite all that shows that this is a more than decent movie.  Worth checking out if, like me, sometimes it can take a while to get round to things and you need something to do on your way to another sodding business hotel.


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