In Time is set in a dystopian future where every human is genetically engineered from birth to stop ageing at 25 – sound too good to be true? Well obviously there’s a downside, at 25 a timer kicks in and once the timer hits zero the person dies or “zero’s out”. In this envisioned future time becomes the currency, you work to earn it, pay for things with it, win or loose it to people, and are perpetually fighting for the time to remain breathing. It’s a very interesting concept, does it work as a movie?
Well yes and no. Let’s skip straight to the problem and then backtrack. In Time has a fairly large issue that shouldn’t really have been overlooked in the pre-production casting process – the main character is played by Justin Timberlake. Yes, that Justin Timberlake. The one from such cinema greats as Southland Tales and Bad Teacher… Ok so it’s probably not that bad, he did a passable job in The Social Network.
Let’s overlook Justin Timberlake being Justin Timberlake and look at In Time as it is. It does boast a supporting cast of Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy which is definitely a plus. I also really enjoy the concept, and the film is remarkably clever in how it deals with ‘time’. The script intelligently switches the meaning of time now that it is the only currency and plays close attention to the tense of sentences. People who have time, or “come from time” as the movie puts it, perform tasks slower and don’t rush whereas people betray being poor by their speed – running between places, eating too fast, etc. “I don’t have time” takes on a more prescient meaning.
Timberlake’s character Will suddenly gets his hands on a lot of time attracting the attention of the “Timekeepers” (the lead of which is played by Cillian Murphy) which leads to various hi-jinks, the result of which is that he kidnaps a wealthy mans daughter. Just prior to the kidnap a perfectly creepy moment happens when Will is introduced to the Mother-in-law, Wife, and Daughter of said wealthy man and all are frozen at 25 – age as a distinction between people has become irrelevant.
Time zones have a new meaning, now taken to signify the different levels of economic distribution of time – those with and those without. The movie is an exaggeration of the 1% argument, taken to the extreme that when those less ‘well off’ run out of time, they literally stop (i.e. die). It’s thinly veiled and I think few people would watch this without realising the true motive of the film is to hold up a mirror to certain aspects of our own world – which is the point of any good dystopian story. There is only so much time to go around and as the film says “for a few to be immortal, many must die”.
I won’t recount the whole story, needless to say the film’s concept is perhaps slightly more interesting than its delivery – again not helped by the lead actor being Justin Timberlake. In Time has an odd style, things seem curiously retro in design with the addition of some LED’s to try and signify ‘the future’ and whilst I do sort of like the juxtaposition of this old and new it also seems at odds with itself. A friend with whom I watched this was infuriated with the sound made by the cars – it’s akin to the noise made by vehicles in the cartoon The Jetsons or some sort of crazy futuristic hair dryer. The soundtrack on the other hand has this constant electro beat/pulse theme which is reminiscent of several tracks from The Animatrix. It is also quite beautifully shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins.
I feel like after setting up the world the film gets a bit lost plot-wise. Rather than giving into the slightly more realistic despair in, and eventual loss to, ‘the system’ that we might have got if this film had been the work of Kubrick it succumbs to the Hollywood agenda of ‘happy endings’. It also doesn’t have the balls to kill off the main characters, I had this feeling about halfway through that they were going to Thelma and Louise the ending but they pull out of it at the last second. That being said, the ‘good guys’ essentially triumph, ‘the bad guys’ get what they deserve in the process and the movie is reasonably entertaining.
Overall I want to like the movie because the concept is quite interesting and it thoughtfully changes the perception of time from a system of measurement to an absolute currency. I am not shocked to find out that Andrew Niccol who wrote and directed In Time is responsible for Gattaca and S1mOne both films that explore interesting, if slightly dark, sci-fi concepts. It’s certainly not perfect, I don’t buy Justin Timberlake as a fighter for the people for one second (pun intended), and it gets quite preachy towards the end without the gravitas to pull it off convincingly. In Time is flawed but good entertainment with a nifty, if slightly underworked, concept.
6 out of 10
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