US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Up in the Air

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Up in the Air directed by Jason Reitman (Paramount Pictures, 2009)

The most unbelievable thing about Jason Reitman's slick black comedy is that there is anybody left in America who still likes to fly. But Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), who makes his living firing other people on behalf of bosses without the stomach for the work, spends more than 300 days a year in the air and still gets a kick racking up extra miles and savoring all the perks of his elite flyer status. Bingham is the sort of guy who can drop into Boise, terminate 40 mid-level employees, and brag to a woman in the Marriott bar about the upgrade he got with his new room.

Of course Bingham has no real family, home, or friends--and no visible regrets about the emptiness of his life--or guilt about making a living by terminating the careers of other, often noticeably more decent, human beings. Like the sharks he praises in his self-help talks, he is a guy sustained by motion, permanently focused on the tasks and satisfactions of moving through each day and jetting around the country. He's only really unhappy when he must come back to an apartment with less charm than a bus stop.

But even in business class there can be snafus, and Bingham's professional and personal life run into heavy weather when his company decides to cut airfare bills by firing folks over the Web just as Ryan starts dating the woman of his narcissistic dreams in a series of airport hotels. Internet firing offends Bingham's professional sensibilities (and threatens to interfere with his dream of 10 million miles) and grounds him in Iowa while his new girl flies around the country.

Despite living in a post-9/11 world, Ryan Bingham has no fear of flying, but he's terrified of committing to anyone who might abandon him, ironic for someone firing an endless stream of loyal workers. How will Bingham respond to the threat that he, too, could be made redundant, or the equally frightening possibility that he might grow up?

Catch the in-flight film.