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Up in the Air(2009)
Ryan Bingham, is a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams.
For more about Up in the Air and the Up in the Air Blu-ray release, see Up in the Air Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on February 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick, Jason Bateman, Amy Morton, Melanie Lynskey
Director: Jason Reitman
» See full cast & crew
Up in the Air Blu-ray Review
Be sure that this disc lands in your Blu-ray collection.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, February 22, 2010
To know me is to fly me.
Officially announced mere days ago and already arriving on reviewers' doorsteps with less than two weeks before Hollywood's biggest night, the Oscar-nominated Up in the Air lands on Blu-ray as quickly as it won over both fans and critics alike, the picture a lively and oftentimes touching glimpse into the life -- or depending on one's perspective, lack thereof -- of a hardcore frequent flier. However, Up in the Air is more than simply a snapshot of life on the road or, more aptly, in the skies; it's a telling, touching, and altogether genuine look at life and all that entails, a broad-in-scope but essentially focused journey through the mind and times of a man comfortable and content in his set ways but with a burgeoning appreciation for the little things that make life truly worth living, most of which aren't readily visible from the coldness of a hotel window or the thin air of 30,000 feet. Up in the Air is a simple movie of simple pleasures but exquisitely crafted and with a moving message on the power of real life to sway even the most ardent of individuals who are married to a job, call a first-class seat a home, and collect not a retirement nest egg but instead a pile of frequent flier miles to come to understand and appreciate the grounded life and all its ups and downs. Up in the Air's plethora of Oscar nominations come as no surprise, the film a capable winner that, like the best cinema has to offer, turns the ordinary into the extraordinary by capturing the essence of life on a journey that's long on miles but short on the time it takes to greatly impact a single, superficially sound, but more deeply uncertain and lonely spirit.
Ryan Bingham (George Clooney, The Men Who Stare at Goats) has been racking up the frequent flier miles and spending almost 11 months out of the year on the road while working for a firm that sends him to fire employees at various enterprises and industries around the country. He's approaching the magical 10,000,000-mile milestone while living -- and loving -- life out of a suitcase and with nothing to tie him down, a philosophy he teaches at various seminars when he's not ruining people's lives as a career endeavor. During some downtime at an airport, he meets Alex (Vera Farmiga, Orphan), a lady who shares his passion for elite status memberships, frequent flier miles, and all things first class. The two engage in a romantic relationship that's dependent on them meeting during their hectic traveling schedules, but their rendezvous are placed in jeopardy when Ryan's Chicago-based company hires young upstart Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick, New Moon) to transition the company from face-to-face firings to web-based terminations. With Ryan's comfortable existence suddenly thrown into chaos, can he find meaning on the ground, in a home, and in the arms of a woman rather than in first class, an airport terminal, and an impersonal hotel room?
Up in the Air is a film that's of a superficially facile feel but it subtly and, sometimes, not-so-subtly, weaves a more involved tale of a man that comes to realize that his perception of the world may not be as cut-and-dry as he believes and, just as pertinent to his life story, has led others to believe. When he's not serving as the bearer of bad news, Ryan delivers a unique brand of motivational speaking, using a backpack filled with the "baggage" of daily life -- people, places, and things -- as a metaphor for an anchor of sorts that ties a man down and keeps him from free roving and fulfilling a greater sense of purpose with an unburdened ease. Ryan practices what he preaches, but his burgeoning relationship with Alex, a sudden jolt to his routine that threatens his very existence as he knows it, and a return trip home to celebrate his sister's marriage allows him to see the world from a perspective that has long since been absent in his life, a vantage point that's no longer obscured by clouds and miles and cards and hotels but captured in a palpable heart and soul, flesh and blood, and perhaps even, ultimately, happiness and fulfillment. Of course, Ryan comes to learn that life isn't always what it seems to be from his perch high atop the world and from the comfort of an American Airlines first-class seat; those things which seem absent from his chaotically-structured existence -- namely hurt and confusion -- exist on the ground floor, but so too, he realizes, do love, honesty, devotion, meaning, morals, and integrity.
Up in the Air posits that while life without pain and with lofty but ultimately empty goals might for a time -- and maybe even a lifetime -- fulfill the voids left by the abandonment of a typically-structured lifestyle, it's the real-world ups and downs that truly satisfy a man. Much like a plane ascends and descends, moves from one location to the next, and rewards those faithful to it, Ryan comes to see that real life offers similar benefits, but ultimately does more to satisfy the soul than does life out of a suitcase, even if, like any given flight, it can be bumpy, delayed, uncomfortable, or maybe even crash and burn. After a long journey, the reward for life on the move might be but a personalized elite status card, a mere object of no worth to any but the holder and a token not of a life lived but instead a memento of a life lost and unfulfilled. After a long journey, the reward for life in the real world might be a deeper satisfaction, scarred by the bumps and bruises as it may be, though certainly a gift that's more than a card, a number, a handshake, or a status on some lifeless computer terminal in a lonely corner of an airport. Ryan comes to learn that life isn't about a membership card, frequent flier miles, or an elite traveler status; it's about doing what satisfies a deeper need, even if the pursuit of that satisfaction leads to painful hurts and dreams unrealized. Life is about taking the good with the bad but doing so with a personal, professional, and honest approach, ideas reflected in his position as a handler of fired employees and, as part of his routine, assuring them that there is indeed life to be lived beyond a paycheck, a job, or a particularly difficult day.
Director Jason Reitman (Juno), working off a script based on a novel penned by Walter Kirn, delivers a complete movie with themes and drama that come full circle and that offer both light entertainment and, upon further reflection, a deeper examination of life. Reitman ensures that Up in the Air's themes remain thoughtful and, just as important, thoughtfully-integrated into the picture, leaving them just close enough to the surface to retain their purpose and meaning but not enough to overwhelm what is otherwise an outstandingly fun and flowing picture that's lively, charming, and wholly endearing, a picture that's likely to withstand the test of time and hold up not only for its thematic underpinnings but its light and purposeful structure, breezy dialogue, many distinct locales, and several spectacular performances. The film's trio of lead actors -- George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, and Anna Kendrick -- have all earned Oscar nominations, Clooney in the Best Actor category and the pair of females for Best Supporting Actress. Clooney's character is the real winner here in that he is readily identifiable as flawed, but not to an extreme that makes the character any lesser of a man. Clooney gives the character a charm and wit that allows the audience to go with the flow and even appreciate and come to admire a man that fires people for a living and lives to love only the number of miles he's racking up. Clooney's character is neither self-centered nor arrogant; he simply is who he is, does his job because he's good at it and not because he necessarily loves doing it, and has fallen into comfort with his lot in life. This is perhaps Clooney's best effort yet, his portrayal of a man that's of many pluses and minuses but nevertheless of sound reason and demeanor, a man that cherishes what he chooses but accepts a changing structure and learns of deeper meanings to life in a plausible manner and without any sort of pandering or phoniness, a credit both to the actor and to the script. Additionally, Vera Farmiga is wonderful in a complex part as the bringer of many of the film's developments, though Anna Kendrick's is a lesser but certainly not ordinary effort as a young woman in search of her place in the real world, a foil of sorts to Clooney's seasoned character who has distanced himself from all that Natalie seeks.
Up in the Air Blu-ray, Video Quality
Up in the Air soars onto Blu-ray with an immaculate 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. As expected of a new release title from Paramount, this is a sharp, crisp, clear, highly detailed, and natural film-like transfer. Though the color palette -- and the image on the whole -- appears just the slightest bit dimmed, it nevertheless sparkles with a naturalistic flair, every color blending into the movie for a pristine and lifelike appearance. In addition to a strong sense of depth, the image offers extraordinarily sharp details and textures that remain focused and true even at great distances. Whether overhead shots of numerous cities where every shape and structure on the ground is clearly rendered, roughly-textured walkways and façades on the ground, lines in clothing, or various nuances around the airport and in hotel rooms, Up in the Air delivers an oftentimes mesmerizing level of crisp detail that's among the best the format has yet seen. Blacks are rich and deep without devouring surrounding imagery, and while flesh tones take on a slight red push, faces themselves are nicely textured and never flat, pasty, or devoid of life. Up in the Air's transfer is what Blu-ray is all about; though Jason Reitman's film features a fairly routine and reserved visual tone, it sparkles in high definition with a thoroughly detailed and breathtaking cinematic texture throughout. It's an ordinary looking film but extraordinarily presented for home viewing, a real winner from Paramount.
Up in the Air Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Up in the Air touches down on Blu-ray with a minimalist but accurate-to-the-source DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. This dialogue-heavy Comedy/Drama delivers little beyond cursory effects and music, though it does so with class and precision, the track never really inviting listeners into Ryan's world but nevertheless handling everything that's asked of it with honesty and ease. The film's score -- particularly the sounds that accompany the opening title sequence -- feature an ease of clarity with a subtle back-channel support and a hefty but not overbearing low-end presence. The track contains minor background ambience in several scenes, though there is never a sense of engrossment into any single environment. Listeners will hear faint clanking of silverware in one scene, the background din of a busy airport elsewhere, and a slight breeze in select outdoor shots, but again, there's no true sense of immersion into any one locale. Even a club scene partway through the film features a bit of atmosphere and a pumping-yet-muddled low-end in accompaniment of some dance-style music, the scene not exactly the most robust on record but doing well enough to spruce up what is otherwise a bland sonic experience. Fortunately, dialogue reproduction is strong and smooth throughout, the film's key sonic signature, then, never problematic. Up in the Air's sound mix is uninteresting at best, but Paramount's lossless soundtrack does it justice and delivers the goods as they were meant to be experienced.
Up in the Air Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Up in the Air checks into Blu-ray with a fair assortment of extra materials. First is a feature-length audio commentary track with Writer/Director Jason Reitman, Director of Photography Eric Steelberg, and First Assistant Director Jason Blumenfeld. Recorded while the film was still in limited release in all of 15 theaters, the participants, in a lively and engaging manner, discuss the picture's opening title sequence, the changes in the script from its origins in a time of economic boom to a time of economic downturn, the use of real-life and recently-fired individuals in the picture, shooting the many aerial scenes in the film, small anecdotes from the set, filmmaking techniques of a fairly technical nature, the film's sound mix and the challenge of shooting in and around airports, shooting locations, the film's music and Jason Reitman's belief in the importance of music in his films, and plenty more. Fans of the film, the filmmakers, and of the filmmaking process will get plenty of mileage out of this track.
Shadowplay: Before the Story (1080p, 2:27) looks at the work of the company that created Thank you For Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air's opening title sequences. Next is the music video "Help Yourself" performed by Sad Brad Smith (1080p, 1:02), followed by a collection of unique and fascinating video storyboard comparisons (1080p, 1:26) and 13 deleted scenes (1080p, 23:16) with optional Jason Reitman commentary. American Airlines Prank (1080p, 0:37) is a humorously tongue-in-cheek phony scene meant to send panic through the ranks of American Airlines' bigwigs as to how the airline is portrayed in the film. Finally, this collection of extras is rounded out by the film's teaser (1080p, 2:00) and theatrical (1080p, 2:32) trailers. Please note that the screener disc used in this review would not load on a pair of PlayStation 3 machines utilizing the latest firmware (version 3.15) but played flawlessly on a standalone Sony BDP-S560. UPDATE: the Playstation 3 problem has been fixed.
Up in the Air Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Up in the Air is a remarkable little film, the sort that's dwarfed by the summer blockbusters in both general audience recognition and box office returns but nevertheless the vastly superior film to many that enjoy broader appeal and take in more money. Still, Up in the Air itself proves an audience-friendly experience, not only because of the presence of a superstar leading man but because of its uncanny ability at meshing pure entertainment with thought-provoking elements that don't interfere with the picture's purely magical, funny, touching, and well-crafted exterior. In a year with ten nominations for Best Picture, it's a bit more difficult to sort things out and determine just which pictures would have otherwise made the cut in a more traditional five-nominee field, but Up in the Air is certainly worthy of all its accolades, and more. Paramount's Blu-ray release is itself an achievement, the 1080p picture quality classy and classic, film-like and handsome, while the lossless soundtrack is rather pedestrian by nature but nevertheless rich and satisfying in presentation. Rounded out by a supplemental package that's worthy of the film but could have been a bit deeper, Up in the Air's Blu-ray release is nevertheless an exemplary one considering the strength of the film and its well-above-average technical presentation, all of which equate to a disc that comes very highly recommended.
Up in the Air: Other Editions
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