||Timeliness can be tricky to pull off convincingly in movies. It's tough to capture an era while it's still happening, yet Up in the Air does so brilliantly, with wit and humanity...Artfully blending a breezy, blithe spirit with a darker social satire, Up in the Air has one of the year's sharpest scripts and an exceptional ensemble cast...George Clooney plays slick corporate downsizer Ryan Bingham. He's a smooth operator, specializing in swift layoffs. Ryan travels to offices he has never set foot in and affably fires people he'll never see again. He's dubbed a "career transition counselor," not unlike the way garbage collectors are called "sanitation engineers." As a frequent-flying hired gun, he pulls the trigger with frightening ease. Adept at serving up platitudes and blandly hopeful comfort, Ryan doesn't particularly like his job, but he's good at it. Mostly, he enjoys being airborne...He's in his element amid the anonymity of business class, enjoying the perks of his position, reveling in rootlessness. His life's goal is to earn 10 million free miles, though he has no exotic vacation destination in mind. Being one of the few to reach that milestone is reward enough for this vapid charmer...Co-writer and director Jason Reitman is a bona fide filmmaking talent. His Thank You for Smoking (2005) was a farcical delight, and Juno (2007) an endearingly quirky comedy. With Up in the Air, Reitman emerges as a modern-day Frank Capra, capturing the nation's anxieties and culture of resilience. Reitman improves upon Walter Kirn's clever novel, deftly portraying unemployment with humor and sensitivity. He skillfully juxtaposes Ryan's casual arrogance with the care-worn faces and heartfelt reactions of real people, not actors, who have actually been laid off...Clooney gives one of his best performances, upgrading Kirn's smug anti-hero to a better class of fellow, with an undercurrent of vulnerability. Reitman added layers to the characters, made changes to the plot, updated the setting and added players...Ryan's comfortably nomadic existence is upset when his smarmy boss, Craig (Jason Bateman), hires the freshly minted Natalie (Anna Kendrick) and institutes her plan to "revolutionize" the business by terminating employees via the Internet...A one-night stand with fellow traveler Alex (Vera Farmiga) begins to take on emotional heft for Ryan, but things don't go as the story leads us to expect...In fact, that is one of Up in the Air's most notable assets: It doesn't travel straight from Point A to B. Reitman elevates the trajectory of the contemporary comedy, setting it on a soaring flight pattern.