Thank you, Andrew Niccol. Thank you for writing and directing something that resembles an original idea. Even though In Time is a symbolic 109 minutes that can, and will, be related to modern economic times – all while borrowing thematic approaches from flicks and/or stories such as The Chase and Robin Hood – this cinematic orchestration brought in a sense of invigoration that has been missing from movie watching as of late. In other words, this film couldn’t have come at a better time.
Society’s currency is now measured in time (years, days, hours, minutes, etc.). After a genetic engineering policy is put into play, humans will not age past twenty-five. Upon reaching that age, they are given one year of time. They can use this said time to buy items at a grocery store, pay the bills, or even buy a hooker. If they are fortunate to get a job, they can increase their time, which in turn, increases their existence in the heavily unbalanced social structure that is the United States. Broken up into zones, the rich live like immortals while the poor zones fight every day just to see one more. The more time one has, the longer they avoid death. And everyone knows exactly how much time they have – or don’t have – for a running countdown is displayed on their forearms; which they also scan to make the above mentioned purchases.
Time can also be given to another. Just as one person can give a dollar to a homeless person, two people in this future society can do a pirate handshake (instead of grabbing one’s hand, you grab their forearm) and transfer time over just by saying or thinking how much they want to spare.
Of course there are people, well, criminals, called minutemen who will hold-up the less fortunate for their time. There’s also underground “Strong Arm Fights” in which two people will more-or-less arm wrestle, and whoever manages to keep the person’s hand down long enough will earn their opponent’s wagered minutes.
Living in the massive poor zone is, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake). He and his struggling mother (Olivia Wilde) have been scraping by for years, literally living off hours. When Will helps a random well-off businessman in Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) – who has over a century of time left and his real age is 105 – escape from the 1920’s gangster looking minutemen (led by Alex Pettyfer), Henry passes along all his time to, Will. Will knows that the system they live in is corrupt and decides to use his new found riches to topple the lavish society that holds down the predominantly poor sectors that make up most of the country these days (sound familiar?). To do this, he must cross the boundaries where the rich, and the police force called the Time Keepers (led by Cillian Murphy), do not wish him to be a part of.
The entire opening act is comprised of powerful sequences as Andew Niccol finds a novel way to introduce the viewer to this somewhat complex society. He showcases the daily struggle before shrinking down the world to one character’s arc; which ushers in The Chase and Robin Hood angles around the halfway mark. The atmospheres, in both the poor and rich areas, are not all futuristic looking, save for a few time gadgets here and there. And whether the action is unfolding in the slums or in a ritzy city, the elements are always respectful and realistic (though slightly clichéd) depending on the environment. Yet every sequence has an underlying gritty tone.
As Will enters the realm of the rich, he and a wealthy man’s daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) have a natural attraction to each other and this eventually gets the revolutionary-like, Will, into more trouble; for he already has Cillian Murphy’s cyborg-esque character hot on his trail. Drawing pinpoint comparisons to the other films would spoil some of the fun as this segment unfolds. And even though it adds to the intrigue, these said angles are also the only letdown to this piece. For instance, there’s a car-chase scene that is used to transition to the action/thriller tone. And when this occurs, it just seems forced-in to keep our attention. Trust me, after the first ten minutes or so, you’re locked into what is one of the most provocative films this year, that the filmmakers could have forgone the action/thriller route.
Basically, this is clearly masking as a social commentary to the modern times, and the formulaic pattern will look familiar in the second and third acts. With that being said, the engaging performances and the storytelling just give this a different feel that resonates more than other products.
Overall, In Time moves fluidily and has a little bit of everything, despite having some continuity gaps within its characters (pay attention to the Timberlake vs. Murphy plot point). It essentially tells a story about how economics, government, and even looks play pertinent roles in our society. The story could have survived just on those respective criteria alone, but the additions of gratuitous action sequences provide some entertainment thanks to the sharp cinematography.
In Time is rated PG-13 and opens in the Tampa Bay market on October 28th.