The protagonist Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, works for a corporation that is hired by executives to fire employees so that they don’t have to experience the uncomfortable confrontation and emotional aftermath themselves. He’s charming, witty, quick thinking, independent, meticulous, and most importantly, emotionally detached.
He travels all over the country approximately 300 days per year and as a result hasn’t had the time to form any stable relationships with friends or family. He leads himself to believe that he doesn’t need anyone else to rely on and that he is perfectly content with a nearly empty apartment and empty relationships. His career holds a higher value to him than falling in love, making friends and commitments, or even being with family. He has no goals other than to do his job and to be the 7th person to reach the 10 million request flyer miles in order to attain the executive status and the satisfaction that comes with having that elite status.
During one of his travels, Ryan meets a woman named Alex who turned out to be like the female version of him. They hit it off and continue to see each other despite the differences in their travel schedule. At this point, Ryan’s company hires Natalie Keener, a young, smart, recent graduate of an ivy-league school, who came up with a seemingly efficient plan to fire people via computer conference calls which loud reduce travel expenses and help employees avoid the uncomfortable confrontation.
Ryan’s career and constant traveling is the only life he knows and he is resistant to the idea of having his job replaced by a new program that would force him to virtually fire people and keep him on the ground. Many changes began happening in Ryan’s life and he had to learn to adjust to them. During his sisters wedding day, his sister’s fiance, Jim Miller, got cold feet and he somehow ended up being the one that had to reason with him.
He himself never believed in the value of marriages because almost all of the marriages he’s witnessed have come to an end, however, he had to convince Jim of something he used to not believe in. While reasoning with Jim, Ryan asks, “Out of your favorite memories, the most important memories in your life, were you alone? ” and finally ends with “Life’s better with company. Everyone needs a copilot” One of the most major decisions that Ryan made was leaving in the middle of an important motivational-speaking event in order to catch a flight to Chicago to see Alex.
It was then that Ryan slowly begins to realize that there are many other things that are more valuable than a career and frequent flier miles. A career can be unstable and be vulnerable to be terminated at any point in someone’s life, however relationships with other people last a lot longer and are more satisfying and fulfilling than any career or status. His impulsive decision to fly out to Chicago leads him to achieve and discover new things. It was during the flight that he finally reached the elite status of having flown 10 million miles.
Although it also lead him to find out that the woman of his dreams was married with kids, it began a catalyst of change where he began to think more about his family and people other than himself. Suddenly, his career wasn’t the most important thing to him anymore and was irrelevant and purposeless. He calls to inquire and request that his flight miles be transferred to his sister and her husband and also writes a beaming letter of recommendation for Natalie. He realizes that social status and materialistic things mean nothing compared to love, friendship, and family.
The movie concludes with interviews of the recently fired employees of the various companies that hired Ryan to fire the employees for them. In one form or another, each states how although they lost their job, their friends and family were there to support and still love them. There’s no sense of purpose without them. It isn’t about the money or the job; it is more so about finding a meaningful purpose in life and living a fulfilling life. A life with family and friends is a lot more gratifying than living a life with comfortable things but ultimately alone.