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In Time (2011)

October 28, 2011

written by: Andrew Niccol
produced by: Andrew Niccol, Amy Isreal, Kristel Laiblin & Eric Newman
directed by: Andrew Niccol
rating: PG-13 (for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and brief strong language)
runtime: 115 min. 
U.S. release date: October 28, 2011
Writer/director Andrew Niccol started his career with “Gattaca”,  a provocative and intelligent sci-fi film which used liberal eugenics and biometrics to separate the perfect human beings from the invalids. A cool concept, excellently told in a dystopian near-future, covering intriguing philosophical and moral ground. With his fifth film, “In Time”, Niccol revisits the genre using some of the same DNA. Unfortunately, characterization and human evaluation take a back seat to action scenes and repetitive dialogue (the word time comes up an awful lot)  though, as a fascinating premise is glossed over for an overabundance of running, staring and standing around. 

In a retro-looking future, humans are genetically designed to stop aging at age 25,  the time they have left after that milestone is turned into currency. You only have about a year, maybe less if you’re living in the ghetto, or if you come “from time” (like coming “from money”) then you probably have nothing to worry about. Still, regardless of social status, everyone seems to be mindful of the glowing green countdown clock on their arm which tells them how much time they have left.  

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is living day-to-day, having been 25 for three years now. He and his mother (Olivia Wilde, who generates some laughs, since they look like a couple) try to work enough to extend their time, because they’ll drop dead if their arms read zero. That’s not their only problem, they also have to steer clear of the Minutemen (led by Alex Pettyfer, “I Am Number Four”), gangsters who go around forcing time out of people. 
One night at a bar, Will rescues a guy (Matt Bomer) who has hundreds of years on him, and in return the man gives Will all but 5 minutes of his time, asking him not to waste it before he purposefully dies. Without a thought, Will gives his friend (Johnny Galecki) a decade, but before he can transfer some time over to his mother, she “times out”. 

Infuriated, Will sets out to rob the system and stick it to all the high society cats (those with plenty of time on their hands – er, arms – who move slower) in the district of New Greenwich. He gets there by traveling through several “time zones” (resembling tollbooths), which cost a couple months, but when you have a century at your disposal – who cares? He checks into a posh hotel suite (that’s another couple months) , yet the people there can tell he’s a foreigner because he eats his food too fast. 

Such behavior catches the attention of Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), who’s daddy, Phillipe Weis (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser, who also starred with JT in “Alpha Dog”) is in  control of a vast amount of time. Hot on Will’s trail is a diligent Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy), who thinks Will committed theft – possibly murder – to get his newly acquired time. Will soon finds himself on the run with Sylvia along as a hostage at first, but she soon realizes she is escaping from a protective, selfish world where all the decisions were being made for her. The two became an item while on the run (of course), and with a price on their head (they’re only worth 10 years?), they manage to steal and extort an enormous amount of time, giving it to those who have little time. 
The world Niccol has created here is very interesting, especially viewed from the lens of veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins. Niccol always surrounds himself with talented filmmakers and composers (Craig Armstrong this time around), so then why did I find myself losing interest after a while? I found myself involved in the decisions people had to make, like how much time a cup of joe is worth, or whether or not 59 years (with tax) is too much for a sporty convertible. I enjoyed the visuals of everyone looking about the same age – imagine your 25 and your grandmother and your mother all look like you. The problem is none of this is examined with any real depth. Niccol is more interested in chases and viewers watching the pretty couple holding hands while running (images reminiscent of other sci-fi films, such as  “Minority Report”, “Logan’s Run” and “The Adjustment Bureau”), then he is exploring the ramifications of everyone looking the same or the social schism on display.

Speaking of everyone looking the same – I really mean it. For some reason, everyone is in great shape and near beautiful. Are people not really short or super tall in the future? Are they not overweight? How come the men seem to only grow stubble on their face (if that) and the rest are clean-shaven, often wearing sunglasses? Maybe that’s why my attention wandered – too many unanswered questions, not enough surprise or unpredictable storylines. 
 IN TIME Timberlake
If the goal was to hook up two pretty leads, then Niccol did a great job. Timberlake and Seyfried are none for being easy on the eyes, yet the also seem to still be proving themselves in the acting department. I’ve recently become a Timberlake convert, after his roles in “The Social Network” and “Friends with Benefits” but his work here seems uneven. He may be better exerting his comic muscles,  but he does have action hero potential. It could just be that the script (already shot with holes) didn’t give him the chance to do a whole lot. As for Seyfried, well, she looked great – as did Wilde, but that’s about it. 

Oh and Cillian Murphy? An actor I usually look forward to? He delivers a predominately one-note performance that teeters on boredom. As a dogged timecop, he could’ve had a lot more fun with it, instead he seems despondent or constipated. That’s too bad. 
“In Time” would have benefited from Niccol taking more time with his characters and the ideas he presents. He also could’ve used a good script doctor to erase all the inane situations and annoying references to time. With such material, there was certainly room to either take it to a more intellectual level (do people really want to live forever?) or just go crazy with it, but instead we’re left to simply just watch time go by.


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