Whip-smart, funny and genuinely moving, Up in the Air may be the perfect movie for its time, due in no small part to a recession-centric theme that taps into that twinge of job-loss fear that runs through most of working America these days.

Whip-smart, funny and genuinely moving, Up in the Air may be the perfect movie for its time, due in no small part to a recession-centric theme that taps into that twinge of job-loss fear that runs through most of working America these days.

But it's the film's more timeless theme - finding connection in isolation - that will ring true even when double-digit unemployment is a distant memory.

Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) is a professional firer for hire, brought in by gutless corporate managers to handle layoffs, a job he does with finesse and a cool, but not heartless, detachment.

His job means endless air travel, which Ryan considers a perk, and the road brings adventures such as a fling with another frequent flyer (a superlative Vera Farmiga). But Ryan's suitcase-laden comfort zone is threatened by an upstart newcomer (Anna Kendrick) with a plan for video-conferenced firings that would leave Ryan permanently grounded.

With an outstanding major debut (Thank You For Smoking) followed by a breakout (Juno), Jason Reitman is already a top-tier young director. This is his first masterpiece. He gets laughs in a way that respects intelligence and can switch to heavy emotion without whiplash. That ain't easy, and I'm rooting for the kid for a directing Oscar.

Oh, and let's not forget Clooney, in the role for which his entire career has been prologue.

Recession be damned, shell out your hard-earned money and see this movie. It's one of this year's finest.