Movie Talk Spring 2010 Part II

The Informant! 爆料大師

Directors seem to like to work with a certain team of acquainted actors these days. Steven Soderbergh created the new generation of Rat Pack with his Ocean’s 11 trilogy. Now he continues to work with the versatile Matt Damon. And that’s a good thing, because we need to see more of Damon’s comedic brilliance.

(**Spoilers alert!!**) Matt Demon plays a neurotic engineer, Mark Whitacre, who seems to co-operate with FBI to expose his company that is involved in price fixing as an honourable citizen. At first we see him as merely a fame seeker, who wants to be the hero and maybe takes the top office position after his boss faces the law. But as he leaks more new information to the FBI and his lawyers, it’s more difficult to keep his “facts” straight, digging a deeper and deeper hole that his lies can’t fill.

In watching this train wreck, the audience goes on a free fall with Whitacre. We kind of root for him at the beginning, because he seems like a nice guy, trying to do the right thing and clear his guilty conscience. But then we see his is more than a fumbling fool, resorting to ridiculous excuses and schemes to cover his track. Damon’s character is written as a comedic role, but the movie is a dark comedy as his situation deteriorates. It’s almost too sad to watch, as everyone around him can see the situation is beyond repair, but he keeps trying to patch up his insurmountable lies. If you feel cheated by the end of the film, then Soderbergh and Damon have accomplished what they set out to do. Some viewers may feel they wasted their time. A good gauge is — if you liked Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 12, your EQ is probably high enough to handle The Informant!.

Up in the Air  型男飛行日誌

Jason Reitman is fast-becoming the director with one of the best track records. Now he has gone from indie king to working with a big Hollywood star. With George Clooney’s good taste in picking good scripts and roles — with the exception of the unbearable Batman & Robin, of course — Up in the Air has earned praises from the critics right from its film festival screenings to the box office. Unlike many hard-to-swallow artsy films, it is really a engaging film with 3-dimensional characters and original plots, making it a delicious treat for movie lovers, even though the ending could be bittersweet to most people.

Ryan Bingham (Clooney) leads a life with carry-on luggage, airports, and hotels. Firing people as his job, he preaches emotional detachment as the way to find true success and even happiness in life. He prides himself on the mileage and gold card status he has earned. When he meets a female version of himself in fellow traveller Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga), he feels like he’s found the perfect match, acquaintance with benefits but none of the emotional burden. But he is forced to face his empty home as his company is “grounding” him and experimenting with doing their business via the internet. To prove that face-to-face interaction is the way to go and to show a young apprentice the life on the road, he takes the ambitious Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) on his last trip. Ryan might have thought he has everything figured out, but Natalie’s different values, beliefs and attitude towards life challenge his aloof system. By the end of the trip, they realize they both have a lot to learn about life and themselves. Although the lesson may not be reassuring or comforting, it leaves room for possibilities and thus, hope.

What I loved about Up in the Air is that it has complex and therefore interesting characters and deviates from every predictable plot. You may think the story is about Ryan Bingham abandoning his lonely lifestyle and goes after the girl of his heart, but there is more than that. There is the obvious parallel between Bingham’s and Keener’s business strategies and their outlooks on life. Keener is a typical freshmen in the corporate world, believing that technology is the solution to everything. And yet she shows more humanity and even innocence when dealing with people in the flesh, which lack in jaded old dogs like Bingham. In contrast, Bingham believes that the human interaction can not be replaced when he’s doing his job — letting people go, but he refuses to allow himself to be vulnerable and tied down with “useless" emotions. And then there is Alex Goran, who may be the most consistent character through out the film. While we are schooled by typical romantic stories to expect how she reacts to Bingham’s change, she surprises us in a brutally honest way to make the movie more realistic.

Ryan Bingham is a role made for Clooney. With his charm and swagger, he pulls off the confident man in suit effortlessly. And Farmiga is his equivalent on screen, so sure of herself but is still very likable, making her last scene so much more powerful. Anna Kendrick is a very pleasant surprise for me. She plays the uptight Natalie, who tries so hard to prove herself in the heartless world but also shows her naive side, so well. I’m so glad she went for this role outside of her Twilight fame (I highly doubt the voters who gave her the MTV Movie Award actually saw this film). I love Ellen Page, but I’ve got to say Anna is better suited for this role, or it’s just because Jason Reitman has the golden touch to get the best performance out of anyone.

Reitman not only excels in his writing, he also use the screen and images to add on to his story, as a great director is capable of. From the opening sequence made by his long-time collaborator, Shadowplay Studio, who is also responsible for film titles of Juno and Thank You for Smoking, it takes us on a journey, floating in the sky and constantly moving. The shots of empty offices and parking lots give us an actual feeling of the solemn mood of the corporate American in the recession days.  The tone of the movie is cold — grey business suits, black digital gadgets and white snow — while the brief family setting provides the rarse warm atmosphere. It’s the combination of outstanding script, characters, cinematography and design that makes this film worthy of its 6 Oscar nominations. If you’re interested in human emotions and a story relevant to the world we live in, Up in the Air is a movie that’s not likely to disappoint.

About Alice

I am a Taiwanese-Canadian who lived in Toronto for 18 years and then decided to explore the west coast and moved to British Columbia. My interests include science, technology, movies, music, theatre and literature. I am always curious about how things work. I hope I can turn this curiosity into my passion about life and the world around us!
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