Film review by: Witney Seibold
A high-concept sci-fi film from Andrew Niccol (the man behind “Gattaca” and “Simone”), “In Time” envisions a near future where people have been genetically bred to stop aging at 25. To make up for the seeming immortality, society has replaced currency with minutes on a glowing deathclock imprinted in your forearm. The poor live – quite literally – day to day, while the wealthy have hundreds and hundreds of years on their clocks. Time, as they say, is money. The poor live in walled-off slums, and the rich can freely go where they please. And, since everyone is eternally 25, they’re all uniformly thin and good looking. It’s established that you can’t die of old age, but you can die when your clock runs out, or by any of the conventional means. I guess once you reach a certain age, you begin wanting to take care of yourself.
This is a neat idea, I suppose, and makes for an interesting and fun concept film that is exciting to watch, but doesn’t necessarily hold up to any kind of serious scrutiny. That’s fine, though, as Niccol is so devoted to the premise, that it never feels cheap or dumb. Time is money, and we’re taking that idea to a logical extreme.
The main character in the film is a prole named Will (Justin Timberlake, 30), who is discontent with his lot in life, and give away whatever spare time he has to other who live in his slum. His mom (Olivia Wilde, 27) worries about him, and works day-to-day just like he does. They all take trains and buses, and no one had mobile phones. You would think that in a world where every second counts, and your life can be swapped for a luxury item that the people would be more devoted to running faster, keeping more efficient bus schedules, and working on amazing running shoes, but it’s more like a regular slum where people act like normal. I would have liked to see a slum where people talk in a quickened slang in order to actually save time. Mobile phones, you would think, would be invaluable. Well, unless you have to pay for them with more of your life. Maybe more payphones would be better.
Anyway, Will saves a rich man from an evil gangster (Alex Pettyfer, 21), and, in return, the bored 100-year-old gives will a century on his clock and promptly dies, bored with immortality. When his mom dies in his arms, Will decides to infiltrate the upper echelons of society and, I dunno, try to redistribute wealth. He meets the pretty ditz Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried, 26) and her rich father Philippe (Vincent Kartheiser, 32). Philippe is the only one of the cast who seems like he’s actually as old as he says. He’s supposedly 104 years old, and seems to carry himself like a man who has, well, all the time in the world. Like there’s an ancient oil tycoon itching to get out. Again, you would think that in a society that has a bunch of rich immortals sequestered off from the world, that they would talk and move more slowly, and would, naturally, be overweight. I would love to have seen a more extreme version with fat people. But no. This is a big-budget Hollywood film. Can’t have fat people in one of those. At least the rich are all paranoid enough to have bodyguards. That makes some sense.
There is also a cop in the movie, called a Timekeeper, played by Cillian Murphy, 35. He is chasing Will down to find out how he got that extra hundred years. The film then leads to a series of taut chase scenes where our hero’s clock almost winds down, and he desperately refills it.
There is a kind of delightfully reckless attitude in this film. Our hero, perhaps nobly, wants to redistribute the wealth to the poor, making him into a Robin Hood, but with a Bonnie at his side (Sylvia comes with him). We do see that his efforts can actually do some damage, and that giving people a year here and there will only carry them for so long. But then, the poor only live check to check anyway, so perhaps it’s a more pertinent metaphor than I give it credit for. I just wish we could have seen some sort of connective material, or perhaps a brief explanation, as to how the world chose to adopt this odd system. Perhaps it would have worked better as a commentary then. As it stands, it’s a perfectly decent sci-fi film with more on its mind than most. It’s refreshing to get one of these every once in a while.
Also – I’m sorry – but there is no way Sylvia could have spent the entire film sprinting at full speed wearing the precarious heels she did. Don’t believe it. Not for a second.