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In Time (12a): Movie Review

Rachel Winterbottom isn't sure by a futuristic caper

Published on November 4th 2011.

In Time (12a): Movie Review

IT'S the near future. The good news is the human race has been genetically engineered to stop ageing at 25. The bad news is if you’re poor, you barely have a year to enjoy it. Time is literally money. Everyone is born with digital timers on their forearms that can be credited or debited as required. Goods and services can only be bought with minutes, months, years. Starbucks is making a killing.

In Time might be a new spin on the standard race-against-time plot line but after a promising start this otherwise lightweight film becomes weighed down by its lead characters’ overbearing sense of smugness. 

28-year-old Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in a Time Zone ghetto. As a poor labourer, he and his 50-year-old mother (Olivia Wilde) live day to day, loaning high-interest hours to get by. After saving the life of a rich man, Henry Hamilton, Will is granted over a century of time as a reward. Hamilton reveals to Will that the rich are stockpiling time to become immortal, and hiking up prices in the ghettos to keep the rest of the population low. Enraged, Will goes on a spending spree in the opulent New Greenwich Time Zone and enjoys a lie in.

Unfortunately, law-enforcing Timekeeper Raymond León (Cillian Murphy) believes Will acquired his century by nefarious means and quickly catches up with him. Will is forced to go on the run, taking Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the beautiful daughter of wealthy time merchant Phillipe Weis, as his hostage. The bored heiress soon sees things Will’s way and the pair plan to get justice for the poor. Unfortunately, the Timekeepers, along with local time-stealing gangsters, the Minutemen, are hot on the duo’s heels. And they’re fast running out of time metaphors.

As far as writer and director Andrew Niccol’s career goes, science fiction thriller In Time is closer in quality to the woeful S1m0ne (2002) than the phenomenon that was The Truman Show (1998) or even Gattaca (1997). The concept and stakes are suitably high, but, beyond a standard rich/poor divide message, In Time is as vapid as its New Greenwich residents. 

Niccol does flesh out his time-driven universe with some intriguing details. The poor run, their clothing has zips and their technology hasn’t progressed past genetic engineering. The rich take leisurely strolls, have time for buttons and dance to Nouvelle Vague. In other areas, though, Niccol is somewhat lazier. The gender divide is as stark as the fiscal. In the rich Time Zone, women tag around after their menfolk and the poor are either manual labourers or prostitutes (no prizes for guessing which gender can be bought by the hour). 

The concept conveniently demands a young(ish) cast and leads to some visually distinctive relationships; in reality Wilde is three years younger than Timberlake, her on-screen son (insert derogatory ‘MILF’ references here). Timberlake is likeable enough in the leading man role, but his soft-spoken Will makes for a fairly wet action hero. He faired better as the cocky Sean ‘Napster’ Parker in The Social Network (2010), proving his limp delivery is more suited to sleaze than sex appeal.

After laudable turns in Mean Girls (2004) and Jennifer’s Body (2009), Seyfried is reduced to being a pretty face in a wig. Even she can’t induce sympathy for the spoilt Sylvia, who too easily turns on her family for daring to let her live in opulence.

Flagged by fellow Timekeepers, there solely to point out the obvious (‘You’ve been shot!’), Cillian Murphy (Inception, 2010) is fine as Timekeeper León, but his character’s thin motivation and predictable fate overshadow his performance. The same goes for Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four, 2011) as Minuteman Fortis, whose sole motivation to be evil (British, in other words) is that stealing time is so ludicrously easy.

In Time might be a new spin on the standard race-against-time plot line but after a promising start this otherwise lightweight film becomes weighed down by its lead characters’ overbearing sense of smugness. You’d have thought no one has ever considered robbing a bank before, using the ingenious device of driving a truck at it. The leading duo may be young and beautiful, but their banter is perfunctory and any spark between them is out-shone by the glowing digits on their arms.

Rating: 4/10

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the Whalley RangerNovember 6th 2011.

Yes, this flick does have its flaws - many aspects of its intriguing concept do not seem to be thought through properly.

Nevertheless, the movie is full of socio-economic methaphors which appear to fit rather well into our times. And that is its merit.

Let's just remind ourselves of how the original Planet Apes movie commented on the nuclear issue or Logan's Run on age-fetish a generation ago.

Did we really rate these movies on whether their lead act was an odd choice or on whether the character depth was unsatisfactory?

No? I thought not - they were simply sci-fi/ action flicks that made a social statement. And very effective they were - simple message for simple people.

Please don't dis this production and rate it just as rotten tomatoes would just because you're not sure...

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