"We are not swans,” declares Ryan Bing ham (played by George Clooney), summing up human nature to a crowded conference room. “We’re sharks.”
The line comes about midway through Up in the Air, the latest picture from Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno), and the claim also sits at the center of the film’s feast of ideas. Calvin said all wisdom consists of two endlessly interconnected parts: the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves. Up in the Air is a meditation on the latter, and it is one of the most intriguing films of the year.
Bingham’s claim is that human beings are not meant to settle down with one partner, like swans, but rather to constantly move on, like sharks. Sharks are also killers, of course, and though this is not Bingham’s primary point, the predatory implication is clear enough.