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    Monday, 21 December 2009 16:51

    “Up in the Air” - A Lesson in Character Creation

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     “Up in the Air” is a character study. No car crashes. No giant robots. No space marines fighting aliens. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.


    At its core, the movie is about a guy that has intentionally isolated himself. The story doesn’t go into a lot of detail about how he got there, but is concerned with him discovering just how isolated he has made himself. To do that, the film uses generous amounts of irony.

    Ryan, the main character played by George Clooney, works for a company hired by other companies to be a temporary hatchet man. His job is to separate people from the people they work with. One of his daily goals to to provide these people, some of whom have worked for the same company for decades, with just enough hope and dignity to allow them to walk out of the office; let them down easy. Of course, there really is no way to do that.

    Ryan travels something like 320 days a year. His “hobby” is collecting milage from loyalty rewards programs. His goal, a big number of miles; a noteworthy number so large the companies will go out of their way to be loyal to him. So here’s big irony point #2, Ryan values loyalty and companies that reward it, yet on a daily basis Ryan cuts the legs out from under employees that have been loyal to companies.

    While Ryan may not exactly take joy in airport screenings, he’s developed the entire procedure into a fine art. He travels with very little baggage. He’s known for this and even gives corporate motivational lectures about cutting baggage out of life. Not just the physical baggage you travel with, but also the emotional baggage that comes with relationships.

    As part of a cost saving initiative by Ryan’s company, he’s called back to the home office and introduced to Natalie, played by Anna Kendrick, a young up and comer who has the genius idea of firing people via internet video chats. Ryan resists this, mostly because it means his hobby goal won’t be reached, but also he really does feel that he actually does provide a service by being in the room. So, Ryan is starting to realize something; maybe isolation isn’t such a good thing.

    I don’t want to give too much of the film away, but it is rather brilliant in terms of finding the exact right contrasts when it comes to building all of the characters and how they interact with one another.

    Dialog in this film is stunning. That’s actually what got me hooked on it; an early teaser trailer that linked a couple of Ryan’s speeches together in a way that was simply amazing.

    I highly recommend this movie.

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