PictureUp in the Air comes to Blu-ray presented with a 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. It is a fantastic-looking new release, boasting all of the qualities you would expect from a recently-made, medium-budget production debuting on the format, but it does have one niggling issue. It is peppered with aerial shots (some may have even been stock footage) and almost all of them have a fair amount of grain and showcase a distinct drop in overall quality in comparison with the movie proper. Of course, it does not help that the movie kick-starts with just such a series of shots, and it is a shame that these do not look as good as the closing frames. Still, the rest of the film looks, as aforementioned, excellent - and is just what you would expect. Detail is good throughout, both on the close-up head-shots and the (admittedly few) wider angles. The colour scheme offers up quite a broad palette, even considering the colourless, bleak look of some of the US locations. It relies heavily on polished wood interiors, deep blue presentational panels, and the odd strong red rose left in a hotel room. Everything looks fantastic, with skin tones coming across as realistic (if quite tanned) throughout. Black levels are solid too, with no edge enhancement, negligible softness and simply no defects (but for during said aerial shots). Overall this is a very good video presentation indeed.
SoundThe movie boasts a strong DTS-HD Master Audio track which really does very well indeed with what is quite aurally limited material. The dialogue is clear and coherent throughout, largely emanating from the centre channel, with some support from the fronts. And even when it gets quite quiet - Clooney's often introspective musings do ride a fine line between softly contemplative and irritatingly mumbled - the rest of the track largely stands still during these moments, allowing us to focus on the all-important dialogue. The effects are perhaps the most limited aspect, although the atmospherics are distinct and perfectly suited to the relevant setting: you really feel like you're on a flight, or on the airport shuttle, as Clooney travels the country. However the chosen song tracks, without a shadow of a doubt, represent the high point of this mix. The score itself is fairly generic for this sort of modern relationship drama, and would not feel out of place accompanying Juno or any number of similarly contemplative productions, but the songs themselves are superb. Whether the penetrating beat of the music during the party Clooney crashes or the soul-searching guitar-accompanied vocals from the likes of the late Elliot Smith, the movie has that Garden State-quality of soundtrack that really enhances the movie, and even makes the frequent, well-designed (and symbolic) montage sequences feel all the more meaningful.
The Director Jason Reitman, partnered up with his Director of Photography and his First Assistant Director, provides a solid full-length contribution that proves quite appropriately insightful, not just into the production, but into the background to the story it was trying to tell. We get to hear about the victims portrayed in the movie (who were all real individuals, recently made redundant and filmed - without the cast present - talking to the camera, their footage then inserted into the relevant scenes), the ideas posited by the original novel, the changes made in the transition to film and the interesting anecdotes from the filming process. The Director's admitted aversion to soundstages perhaps goes some way to explain why Clooney's dialogue almost degenerates to the level of mumbling, his explanation of his process to select song tracks reflects the excellent soundtrack result (in this and on Juno), and his modest gratitude at being able to carry on in his father's footsteps (his dad helped on the production) is quite a nice added touch. An interesting, informative and yet accessible accompanying track.
We get 23 minutes of Deleted Scenes, which are actually quite decent for a change. There are some great lines here, and some nice character development - although it is easy to see why some of the scenes were not left in, as they might have disrupted the flow. Still, it makes you wonder about the potential for an extended variation (which isn't normally appropriate for this kind of drama). And more Clooney and more Sam Elliott wouldn't have gone amiss, and that's exactly what you get here. Optional Commentary from Reitman provides further insight into their excision.
Shadowplay: Before the Story is an extremely brief, 2-minute, look at the designers behind the opening credits (in this and Reitman's previous two films). We also get a couple of minutes of Storyboards, offering up prepared variations of the scenes as a video comparison with the final production. The music video is but a minute in length, and is more of a music-accompanied behind the scenes montage than the MTV-style offering you might have assumed. There's also a minute-long American Airlines Prank with Clooney on hilarious form. Finally we get the Theatrical Trailer.
VerdictUp in the Air is an insightful, brave and demanding character-study, coming just at the right time as it assesses, and exists in our current Western world of recession. It features another tremendous performance from George Clooney, and has the same contemplative soul-searching modern relationship drama vibe as the Director's last outing, Juno, offering up quite a nice companion-piece to said film. On Region Free UK Blu-ray it gets very nice presentation indeed, both in terms of video and audio, as well as a solid selection of extras grounded by an excellent Commentary and some worth-watching Deleted Scenes. Fans should not hesitate in adding this to their collection, and those who have not seen it, really should. Recommended.
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