Up In The Air - Blu-ray Review

'I was entranced but also beginning to wonder if, when the film was over, I might find myself suffering from clinical depression'

Released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray at the start of this week, I don't think many of the cinema reviews of Up In The Air quite gave me enough warning about the film's content. During an opening forty-five minutes which takes great pains to point out to us just how distant Ryan Bingham's (George Clooney) life is from the rest of humanity, I was entranced but also beginning to wonder if, when the film was over, I might find myself suffering from clinical depression.

In the mode of Lost In Translation (which Up In The Air resembles in themes, if not in tone and style) our story here isn't so much a dramatic narrative, more a portrayal of existence. Bingham works for a company who hire consultants out to fire people at failing businesses. He travels light, collects air miles and generally enjoys his life on the road. That is until, Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) turns up with a series of cost-cutting measures to keep him in the office. Swayed by Bingham's arguments to the contrary, his boss (Jason Bateman) pairs the duo up so that Keener can learn the ropes and Bingham can be convinced of the new methods.

The one person missing from all this is Vera Farmiga as Alex Goran, Bingham's love interest and for me, that is where she belongs, on the outside of this story. That's not to say that Farmiga isn't good (she is) but rather that the compelling nature in Bingham's story rests more in his conversations with Natalie than they do with Alex. It isn't a love triangle but it perhaps is a three-sided philosophy conversation and when Natalie and Bingham are discussing life, the universe and everything and Alex and Bingham are discussing mileage cards, my interest was firmly invested in the former.

Part of that , no doubt, is due to Anna Kendrick who, along with Jason Bateman, really stands out and matches up with actors who have been doing this for a lot longer. Hers is a performance that felt theatrical to a tee. What I mean by that is not that it was overly expressive and somewhat hammed but that it felt more like a theatre performance than that of a motion picture. Natalie is intimate and quiet and Kendrick didn't force the character, guaranteeing our investment in her. Bateman is the forgotten man of this movement but he deserves credit too, mainly for taking on a role that is none Bateman-like and annihilating it with admirable restraint and a great dynamic with Clooney.

Which, all in all, speaks for a film with great technical constituents but not one whose story bears a mention. It does. But here again I feel some haven't warned us enough about its contents. It's not a love story or a journey of discovery or one of awakening; it's a story about people who do sometimes stupid, sometimes clever and sometimes inconsequential things and then have to maraud through life with the consequences. It flirts, certainly, with denying any form of narrative satisfaction but wisely remembers its audience in the final frames, giving us a side of Bingham which hint that either because of or in spite of his journey, he's learnt something about distance.

Look further...

'elevated by the star power of the ever so charismatic George Clooney, Up in the Air is a very entertaining, well-crafted but ultimately superficial movie that pretends to be more than it really is' - Anomalous Materials, B+


  1. i have to admit i love films like this. though i didn't thik i would at first

  2. I liked the film. It makes you introspect, I suppose.

  3. Candice - I think they can be hit or miss. I think Lost In Translation is mainly a miss although I can appreciate the things it does well. This does a good job of doing a lot with very little plot.

    Lesya - I came very close to saying that in the article! I had several conversations on the back of it about life, the universe and everything and when a film makes you do that, you know it's a good'un.

  4. Remember right before the backlash, when everyone was calling it the definitive role of Clooney's career, and Kendrick was giving the best performance ever by a young actor?

    I do.

  5. I do agree that this film is more depressing than its reputation seems to convey. Each time I think about this film, a very strong sense of loss comes over me that is really overwhelming. I'm not necessarily complaining because I respect the film and I think that it ends on the right note, but that does not keep it from being a very challenging emotional ride.

  6. Simon - I certainly do. More than that, I remember when everyone was saying it was favourite for the Best Picture Oscar. I do think Kendrick is fantastic and I think it's arguably better than both THE HURT LOCKER and AVATAR. Not sure about Clooney though. I didn't see him doing much 'different' here whilst in MCHAEL CLAYTON I think the role forced him to show more depth.

    Danny - I agree absolutely. As I said, after 45minutes I was pretty depressed and I think throughout, it does challenge you with a plot that doesn't always follow what you might consider convention. I think the marketing deliberately leads the watcher away from this - perhaps quite understandably.