It takes some kind of actor to take the role of a Nazi sadist and make it more than just a broad caricature. And it's no mean feat to then become the flesh-and-blood incarnation of one of comics' most notorious egotists and turn him into a person you might consider hanging out with.
Up in the Air is not revolutionary and its thesis, however insightful, is not one-of-a-kind. But it is the kind of thing we used to take for granted in Hollywood. It is well-written and sharply observational.