'Up in the Air' compared to Wilder's 'Apartment'

Throughout “Up in the Air,” the shiny American airport provides the ideal reflective surface for director Jason Reitman to examine his (and George Clooney’s) latest indelible character, Ryan Bingham. Reitman has fashioned a film that harkens back to the master Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment.” Both Reitman and Wilder lift up their audiences with substantial humor, and then delicately remind us to look down, where we see the ground beneath our hero has disappeared – he is in freefall. We do not fear merely the character’s inevitable plunge, only (to quote Robert Bolt/James Goldman) that the fall’s all that’s left. We hope for a signal that our hero can struggle on after impact. Wilder achieves this with his immaculate last line, “Shut up and deal,” while Reitman does so with a series of stunning visuals. This is an extremely difficult maneuver to achieve, and Reitman does so, once again, gracefully.

Thomas Kail directed the current Broadway production of “In the Heights.”

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