How George Clooney manages to do it nearly every time I’ll never know. His track record for movies of late has been pretty excellent, and Up in the Air is probably one of his most sublime pictures to date. Directed by Jason Reitman (of Juno fame), Up in the Air is a bit of a surprising picture. Now, it’s not a perfect movie by any means, but I find the accolades thrust upon it are completely justified.
In Up in the Air, George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, a corporate hatchet man who loves his life on the road but is forced to fight for his job when his company downsizes its travel budget. He is required to spend more time at home just as he is on the cusp of a goal he’s worked toward for years: reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he’s met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams. With multiple award nominations and critical acclaim across the board, discover why critics and viewers alike have been calling Up in the Air arguably the defining movie of our times.
Now, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else but Clooney in this role. It’s the perfect marriage of the role and the actor. Flawless casting. No one other than Clooney could make this character, one the audience should really, really hate, likeable. Clooney plays a guy who flies all over the country firing people. That’s his job. Remarkably, we don’t hate him for it. We really, really should. But we don’t. He’s also a motivational speaker, telling people to free their lives of baggage be it people or possessions. Again, we should hate the guy. We should hate Bingham. But with Clooney, we can’t. We get interested in his life, and get sucked in when he finds his way of life complicated by the introduction of two new women to his life, one a new co-worker and the other a love interest. Hilarity and problems ensue, as you can imagine.
Reitman’s Up in the Air is the perfect movie of our times. As we continue to weather the storm of our current economic climate, Up in the Air accurately portrays the uncertainty and worry that comes with the current job market, and the devastating sense of unemployment. Now, by no means is this a dark, depressing movie, far from it. But it feels real. As we see Bingham do his job, we feel for the characters, even for the briefest of moments we see them on screen. It just has that extra punch to it that really gives his movie the weight it needs to work.
What we have here is a great movie that seems to be perfectly handled in nearly every way. While there are a couple teeny problems, mainly the more than a couple painfully predictable and obvious twists that deflate this flick a little, everything else just falls so perfectly into place. The story, the characters, the actors, the directing, the skillful editing, it all just syncs up as it should. It seems like every moment is perfectly telegraphed to tell us something about Bingham and his supporting cast. Whether it’s them crashing a corporate party, Bingham attending his sister’s wedding, or him sitting at his desk, it tells us more than any worthless expository dialogue ever could. And that, to me, is the mark of a great film. We’re not force fed every little moral or every little character tick. We see it unfold naturally, and the film is better for that.
A timely movie, one that may hit closer to home than others, Up in the Air is a movie that is full of surprises. Yes, it has one of two obviously telegraphed moments, those are so miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Everything about this movie feels so effortless and smooth, which, to me, shows just how much work went into it making appear as such. Coming Highly Recommended to own, as it definitely warrants multiple views, is a smart, funny picture that perfectly captures life today. With nary a weak performance to be found, and an engaging and interesting protagonist, Up in the Air is worth getting lost in.
Beyond the bland cover art for Up in the Air, you’ll find a rather well-rounded packaging, both in terms of presentation and bonus content. A respectable presentation by Paramount Home Entertainment, this Blu-ray release serves up a solid viewing experience.
Looking at the audio and video quality, both are crisp and clear. The video looks rich and deep, with even the muted palette of the film popping out. Black levels are deep and the detail is very noticeable, particularly during many of the overhead shots where we see cities from far above ground. Audio is appropriately center-heavy, considering how dialogue-heavy the film is, and crystal clear. Every single word comes out crystal clear, even in the odd scene with noticeably loud environmental cues. All the audio seems well balanced among each channel, bringing a perfect balance between the dialogue, score and environmental cues. Well done, Paramount.
For extras, we have a nice helping of extras. Not overwhelming, but a good balance I find. First up is an audio commentary by writer/director Jason Reitman, director of photography Eric Steeberg and first assistant director Jason Blumenfeld. It’s an informative track laced with some great details on the film’s shooting, but Reitman comes off a little too strong at times. Still, that doesn’t really deter from a worthwhile listen. The remaining extras are a mish-mash of bonus features, ranging from the standard featurettes to deleted scenes. We get a close look at the company responsible for the opening credits for all of Reitman’s pictures to date, a behind-the-scenes music video, a look at rehearsals, a brief prank video, a collection of theatrical trailers (thank you, Paramount!), and a wealth of deleted scenes. The deleted scenes, roughly 24 minutes in total, are all worth checking out and come available with optional commentary.
Paramount Home Entertainment has whipped up a very solid release for Up in the Air, striking a nice balance between the main feature and the bonus content. An excellent movie housed in an equally pleasing high-definition package, Up in the Air definitely comes Highly Recommended. It’s probably one of the quintessential movies of our time, despite the odd flaw here and there, providing a frank look at our current way of life. Despite the quick turnaround between its theatrical run and home video, this title doesn’t feel rushed or hastily plopped together. A surprisingly well-rounded package, Up in the Air would make a worthy addition to anyone’s collection.
Up in the Air is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.