Up in the Air movie review: Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is the guy companies call when they need to lay people off, and the manager can’t work up the guts to do it. He’s slick and professional, a traveling man with no personal ties who takes pride in the fact he’s only in his own apartment 43 days of the year. But Ryan’s life gets a lot more complicated when he meets a potential soul mate in likeminded businesswoman Alex (Vera Farmiga) and is forced by his boss (Jason Bateman) to mentor a hotshot young coworker (Anna Kendrick) who has ideas to revolutionize the downsizing industry.
The buzz: Director Jason Reitman has made a name for himself with back-to-back indie hits “Thank You For Smoking” and the Oscar-nominated “Juno.” “Up in the Air,” his first film for a major studio, is already expected to put him back in the Oscar game thanks to strong reception from film festivals and industry screenings.
The verdict: Reitman’s most mature film to date is about as grown-up, smart and savvy a film as anyone could hope for from Hollywood. It’s a nimble blend of classic and contemporary moviemaking, like Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” updated for the Internet age. There’s amazing confidence in every aspect of the production, from the witty, articulate dialogue to the sterling performances. Clooney has made his effortless charisma a winning component of several signature film roles—“Michael Clayton” and “Out of Sight” stand out—and he’s in peak form here. His chemistry with the sexually assured Farmiga is electric and he makes a equally dynamite match with Kendrick’s bright young problem solver. Reitman turns Bingham’s story into a miniature study of an American life defined entirely by work. The message—building up a professional existence at the expense of a private life is a dangerous gamble—is nothing new, but it’s a timely reminder for a culture still reeling from the blowback of corporate ruthlessness. More importantly for movie lovers, “Up in the Air” is top flight filmmaking.