I’ve enjoyed director Andrew Niccol’s past work from the great sci-fi film Gattaca to the lesser regarded, Hollywood satire Simone. Either way I expected something akin to the former with his newest endeavor In Time, and unfortunately got something basic and uninspiring. Everything about this movie is just okay from the performances to the use of the story and that’s what makes things worse because there are glimpses of a wonderful sci-fi thriller. Instead, In Time is better suited for HBO and TNT repeats with nothing new or thrilling to add to the mix.
In Time shows an alternative world where people stop aging at 25 and are given one more year to live. Time becomes the new currency and the only way people stay living is to work hard and collect enough time. The rich live in beautiful homes and have centuries on the clock while the poor in the ghettos die en masse. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) end up getting over a 100 years worth of time courtesy of a wealthy man who’s sick of living. Unfortunately a Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) believes Will stole it. As Will is hunted down he kidnaps a beautiful rich girl named Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) who starts to think Will’s plans to break the system sound like a good idea.
The above synopsis was not easy to write because of how intricate the plot is, or should be. The concept of time being used as a paycheck, to be saved or gambled away, is thrilling and filled with story ideas. The obvious connections to today’s slate of current events including Occupy Wall Street are even more apparent in a hypothetical world where the wealthy live forever in luxury and the poor die in squalor. The film also makes a statement on living vs. existing, albeit it’s only mentioned in spurts, as the wealthy have all the time in the world yet hoard it while the poor move incredibly fast to save time. All of these ideas could have made for a strong, psychological think piece about the nature of time, existence, and wealth. Instead Niccol squanders it on action scenes, beautiful costumes/cars, and pretty actors.
In Time is Timberlake’s breakout role and he does well given the material. This isn’t Oscar fare and Timberlake doesn’t play Will like a Shakespearean actor. He plays the character for which he is, a downtrodden man who’s sick of having looking at the clock and not having enough hours in the day. Will has dreams of taking his mother (Olivia Wilde) to New Greenwich to live a comfortable life, yet the way the society work prevents the poor from ever obtaining that goal.
Aside from Timberlake the rest of the actors are just generic from Wilde and Vincent Karthreiser as parents to Timberlake and Seyfried’s characters respectively, to the “evil” gangster Fortis played by a moustache twirling (not literally) Alex Pettyfer. The weakest link is Seyfried who plays the character as a poor little rich girl turned on by chaos and crime. It’s bad enough the Bonnie and Clyde storyline between Will and Sylvia never works, but you never care about Sylvia. At first she wants to go home, and then she changes her mind. You never feel she does it to break the system or because she feels bad for the poor, she’s doing it to stay next to Timberlake. The majority of their scenes involve them looking at each other or rolling in bed making it painfully obvious there’s no interest in helping others. Murphy is also squandered as the monotone Timekeeper trying to stop everyone. The ending is also trite, predictable and confusing. The film ends not solving anything…only saying that eventually it will get solved. I’m all for ambiguous endings but this was a cop-out because the script didn’t seem to have an exit strategy, it could also be argued its left open to again play towards the current political controversy.
In Time isn’t bad, it’s just boring. The story is trite and cliché, the acting isn’t anything special, and the important ideas and metaphors are thrown away with one-liners in favor of guns and fast cars. There’s a good movie here but apparently no one was interested in it. It’s a rental for fans of the actors and nothing more.