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"IN TIME"
(2011) (Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Science-Fiction: On an alternate Earth where the aging gene has been identified and turned off, people age until they are 25 and then have one year to live, which has made "time" itself a currency that people are willing to kill and die for.
PLOT:
Will Silas (JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE) is almost out of time...literally. He lives in a future society where the aging gene has been identified and eliminated. People stop aging on their 25th birthdays. Soon after, a digital clock countdown embedded in their left arm begins counting down one year to their death. If you work hard, you can add time. You can also give, take, or exchange time with others (via a sort of mind-meld handshake) or borrow it from a "timeshare" bank. Missions have been set up to "give" people time that need it, but on an extremely limited basis and as donations permit. And if you are wealthy, you can practically be immortal.

Will has lived to see 28 by being a diligent laborer in one of the poorest "time zones." But a chance encounter with Henry Hamilton (MATT BOMER), a wealthy man who has lived for decades and wants only to die, results in Will being given over a century's worth of time. The gift, though, is not enough to save his mother, Rachel (OLIVIA WILDE), who "expires" when public transportation arbitrarily raises bus rates and she doesn't have enough time left to get to her destination.

Pursued by a relentless lawman, Timekeeper Raymond Leon (CILLIAN MURPHY), Will travels to one of the time zones where people are wealthy with plenty of time stored up. He falls for Sylvia (AMANDA SEYFRIED), the daughter of a powerful time banker named Philippe (VINCENT KARTHEISER). Forced to take Sylvia hostage, Will goes on the run and eventually convinces the young woman to join him on his quest to add minutes, hours, days, and months to those who need it most. At the same time, he is targeted by so-called "minute men" gangsters led by Fortis (ALEX PETTYFER) who want his time for their own profit.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
We live in a wacky age where some people worry more about how many minutes they have left on their cell phones than about how many minutes they have left in their lives. The new movie, "In Time," poses the questions: "What if we knew exactly how many minutes we had left to live? What if we could look down at our arm and see a digital read-out just under the skin of exactly how long we have left? Would it be exhilarating? Frightening? What if we had to work for our minutes...work literally for our lives? And what if the wealthy were really wealthy in terms of time left and time accumulated?"

"In Time" is one of those "in a world..." movies. It's tailor-made for those commercials and trailers where the breathy, deep-voiced narrator starts the synopsis with the words: "In a world." In a world where the aging gene has been identified and eradicated, people age until they reach 25, and then begins a one-year digital countdown under the skin of their left arm. You can download additional time through the usual ways you can accumulate cash in this world: you can work for it, you can inherit it, you can borrow it, or you can steal it.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol takes this admitted "Twilight Zone" concept and stretches it out compellingly over a feature-length film. Some would say it's a one-joke premise, and it is sort of. The time puns don't stop from the first minute of screen time to the last. But the "time is money" analogy is one that lends itself well to a two-hour film and I did halfway believe that such a dystopian alternate Earth could really exist and these would be the dilemmas people living in such a world would really face.

There would be missions set up that would give out limited amounts of time to the poor and those in severe need. There would be "timeshare" banks that one could go to and borrow minutes, hours, and days at high interest rates. To control the population and thin the herd, a totalitarian government really would raise "time" prices and rates so that the lower class and the lower middle class would be increasingly priced out of existence and essentially "expire."

It's a James Dean world where too many people live fast, die young, and leave good-looking corpses. Take Justin Timberlake's Will Silas. He's a poor man who has managed to scrape together enough minutes over the years to reach the age of 28. He lives on the edge, trying to keep alive his struggling mother (Olivia Wilde) when one day a wealthy man with a century's worth of time on his arm wanders into the ghetto with a death wish. Will keeps him from being openly brutalized by the dreaded "Minute Men" gang, and the man rewards him with his many decades before committing suicide by allowing his clock to run down to zero.

Unable to save his mother, Will decides to follow in his father's footsteps and give time to the masses. He coerces a wealthy man's daughter named Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) to go on the run with him and knock over time banks. This draws the ire of the society's Timekeepers, an elite squad of cops under the direction of Raymond (Cillian Murphy) who believes that the law regarding time is absolute.

The film isn't based on any Philip K. Dick story or Rod Serling or Richard Matheson concept. I mean, the title cards for this film could easily have read: "Inspired by The Twilight Zone...and the Outer Limits...and Robin Hood...and Les Miserables ... and Logan's Run..." But then again, most movies of this type are mishmashes. Some may notice that Niccol was obviously constrained by a bit of small budget here (the film looks like it was shot mostly within about a six-block radius of some rundown downtown). But I liked that. The film isn't over-designed or overstuffed with digital effects. It's more interested in its concept and its ideas of time, mortality, social justice, and so forth.

That said, I do wish Niccol was a better director of action. He seems to have a fetish for Timberlake running in this film. When he gets stuck on how to draw out an action sequence or bring such a scene to a conclusion, his direction seems to be: "Run, Justin! Run!" I also wish the movie had gone even deeper into its own mythology and given us some deeper characters. It's almost too much of a chase flick and a heist picture. The film raises some great questions and could have been a really classic mind trip. And I do think Niccol's intention was to send his audience home with questions in their head. Questions like: "Are we really spending our precious minutes of life on things and pursuits that are worthwhile?" Or, even better, "If you won't give a few bucks to someone in need, would you give a few minutes to someone who is literally about to expire even if that means you'll be closer to your own death?"

Yeah, you could ask yourself those things on the drive home after seeing this flick. As for me, I was left wondering, "How would any of those people know how much time they'd have left if they somehow had their left arms amputated?" Just a thought. I give the film a solid 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed October 25, 2011 / Posted October 28, 2011


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