George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham, a paid “hatchet” man whose job is to fire people for corporate executives who don’t have the guts to do it themselves. Touted as a “transition specialist”, he spends 322 days a year flying from one city to the next while living out of a one-room rental at a place that looks like the Hampton Inn.
His goal: To achieve membership in the 1,000,000 mile club and receive the airlines club card that identifies him as only the 7th man in the world to reach this milestone.
Bingham loves his work and he truly believes he is a performing a positive service. This, however, is not an upbeat movie. It is a timely and very poignant look at getting downsized in the worst job market in decades. Director Jason Reitman has chosen to cast real people who have been recently fired for the roles of the employees that Bingham meets.
Bingham has no relationships, even with his family, and no commitments. He finds this very satisfying. So too, does the female “road warrior” Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga) he meets in a hotel bar, naturally.
His boss, played by Justin Bateman, brings in a new whiz kid Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick), who has found a way to cut expenses by firing people through videoconferencing. Kendrick is energetic, smart and likable. Bingham takes her on the road to show the hotshot how he does it, and then to attempt the changeover. Clooney is at his best in these scenes. He is smooth and warm and engaging.
We follow Bingham to Wisconsin to attend his sister’s wedding who he hasn’t seen in years. There we get another glimpse of the character’s bravado while really seeing that he is just a lonely guy.
A late scene with Alex is, thankfully, not your “Harry Met Sally” happy ending. It is also unexpected and it is in this scene that you witness the great actor Clooney has become.
Kendrick and Farmiga are good additions to the cast and this is Clooney’s best role. Academy Award nominations for sure for the movie and possibly Clooney.