Up In The Air

Up in the Air is like Doubt, both in being a well done movie and in tempting viewers to project their values onto its ambiguity.  It is about Ryan Bingham, who fires folks for a living.  At first the film seems to criticize corporations for firing folks, and to criticize Ryan for his collaboration.  But eventually the film doesn’t so much change its mind as lose interest.  The movie cares far more about what a willingness to fire people says about Ryan’s character, than it does about the people fired.  Once Ryan has an awakening to self-insight, we the audience are fine with whatever he chooses.

To the extent the movie criticizes firing folks, it mainly frowns on doing so on the cheap, via a low paid newbie following a script by phone rather than a handsome thoughtful professional in person.  Apparently we are ok with firing folks, as long as the occasion has sufficient solemnity to show respect for the departed.  It is like how we respect a hunter who pauses to say an eloquent prayer for the animal he killed, in contrast to an insensitive slaughterhouse worker just passing time till his shift ends.  As with executing humans, we don’t really mind animals dying, if we show we are good people via the process.

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