In Time – Review


A good timewaster, or a complete waste of time?

Remember that time is money. He that idly loses five shillings’ worth of time loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea. ­Benjamin Franklin

If you think about it, time is as precious a commodity as food and water. Each day we are cheated out of minutes by forces beyond our control or by the choices we make; like getting stuck in traffic or spending long stretches watching television or playing computer games. Over a long period of time those minutes lost turn into hours which turn into days which turn into years.

But what if time was the currency of the day? Instead of paper money with dead presidents on them or relying on gold, time would dictate most of your daily activities, be it purchasing a cup of coffee or making a phone call.

That’s the premise of Andrew Niccol’s In Time, a science-fiction film where Benjamin Franklin’s maxim from Advice to a Young Tradesman (published in 1748), about time being money, comes to fruition thanks to genetics engineering.

The Earth depicted in Niccol’s film is similar to the one we live in currently. Although presented as being several decades into the future, there are no extravagant skyscrapers, flying cars or futuristic clothes. The population of the inner city still takes buses to work and struggles to make time to survive, while the affluent areas include cars with suicide doors, winding-road speedsters, and people who seemingly have all the time in the world.

Andrew Niccol’s premise is an intriguing one, but this is to be expected from one of the undervalued writing-directing talents in Hollywood. The way he provokes social commentary with his works – that seemingly germinate before exploding into the mainstream – is certainly deserving of praise. When he wrote The Truman Show the reality TV show craze had yet to take off. Then he made the transition to the director’s chair with Gattaca, where he presented genetic discrimination and examined reproductive technologies. His films S1m0ne and Lord of War vary in subjects, but both provide unique angles in examining a media darling Frankenstein and war through the eyes of a gunrunner.

So it comes with disappointment that with time being the foundation of his latest film, In Time becomes less about its cool concept and more a genre clash of Logan’s Run and Bonnie & Clyde.

Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a young man residing in a ghetto where everyone struggles to gain enough time to make it through the day. He, like all inhabitants of this Earth, has been genetically altered to have an extra year of existence after he turns 25. The time registers on his right forearm glowing a fluorescent green. However that time is not finite; it can be bought, sold and gambled away.

Across a few districts is New Greenwich, which can take more than a year to reach (time credits wise), where the rich have lived decades longer than age 25, and some have more than a century of time stored away so they can, essentially, live forever.

When Will encounters Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a Centenarian with perfect cheekbones and no gray hairs, the two exchange ideals on what it means to live. Henry admits that he’s tired of living, and that no man should live forever. Both their fortunes change in the middle of night when Henry gives Will a century leaving himself just enough to see the sunrise one last time. Conveniently enough, Will awakens and sees Henry from afar on a bridge. He runs to try to stop the impending suicide but is too late. A record of his appearance on the bridge is captured by a security camera, thus giving authorities (known as “Timekeepers”) a prime suspect in an apparent stolen time-murder scenario.

Thereafter, Will encounters Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), daughter of the richest man alive, Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), in New Greenwich. At first she finds him to be very beguiling until she becomes a pawn in Will’s attempts to evade authorities. First reluctant, the two become dependent on one another to stay alive, only to later make the decision to rob time from the rich and redistribute it among the poor Robin Hood style. We never get an explanation or understand why Will would take Sylvia by force; he doesn’t use her for ransom. And her motivation to want to redistribute time comes across as an afterthought. You can’t blame it on teen angst since she’s 27, in real years.

You get a sense that Niccol wanted his movie to offer commentary on our own current economic hardships, full of government bailouts, Wall Street demonstrations and increased unemployment. But we are offered no evidence or conclusions as to why the world has evolved to a state where humans have been genetically altered and time is currency.

Several years ago, Kurt Wimmer’s Equilibrium gave us a dystopian future inspired by the works of Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451) and Aldous Huxley (Brave New World). Niccol’s In Time tries to strike that right balance of mish-mashed ideas but it comes across as a distant cousin to Gattaca, offering far too many questions, giving little answers, and runs out of time before the movie does.

Writer/Director: Andrew Niccol
Notable Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Vincent Kartheiser, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki

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