The opening half hour of In Time gives you an insight into what could be a wonderfully brilliant science fiction film. In the near future humanity has figured out a way to stop aging at 25. The drawback is now that time has officially become a commodity. The rich can afford to have centuries at their disposal while the poor toil in factories for low wages and hyperinflation making them work harder for less. When a member of the wealthy class (Matt Bomer) decides to end his life by giving what remains of his time to factory worker Will (Justin Timberlake), Will’s entry into the realm of the elite brings with it the guardian of the upper class: the time keeper (Cillian Murphy).
As he’s forced on the run with the daughter of a socialite (Amanda Seyfried) who has no idea of the indignities of the lower class, his time stripped away, the two combine to become a Bonnie & Clyde type to give time away to the masses without it. And building up to the moment where Will goes on the run, In Time is moving in the same direction that Michael Bay’s The Island is: a brilliant piece of science fiction. And it shares the same end result, as well: a laughable action thriller.
The film has so much going for it that it winds up nearly equaling out. Given a cast of younger stars, mainly to enhance the film’s “everyone remains young forever” motif, but it winds up working in the film’s favor. Andrew Niccol has assembled a fairly strong cast of young actors playing people of all ages; everyone looks young throughout the film, even the extras, so it ends up giving the film a fairly creepy vibe to it. No one ever grows up physically, but they do mentally, so when there are big moments of drama that normally would seem laughable because of the youth of everyone involved it winds up having a much stronger effect because of this cheat.
And it’s hard to fault the film’s star, Justin Timberlake, for the mess the film ends up turning into. Timberlake has a star presence to him that immediately makes us want to care about Will from the get go. Given a fairly stock character, he has enough charisma on screen to make a fairly one-dimensional character into something much better designed than ever intended. He does his best to take laughable dialogue and make it sound strong. The problem is that once the film moves away from being a science fiction film to an action thriller it goes from intriguing to dreadful.
The film is remarkably intelligent early on. Will’s initial reactions to being in the realm of the haves, with him eating quickly and running everywhere, stands out amongst a crowd using to having the ability to take their time. Niccol does so much good early on that once the film turns into a generic action film all the intelligence leaves as well. It’s mindless and boring, sucking out all the drama inherent to the film’s brilliant opening act.
In Time remains, then, a film markedly flawed. On the one hand there’s some brilliant science fiction involved. On the other hand there’s a direct to video action thriller attached to it. It winds up a brilliant concept but a poor execution resulting in mediocrity.
Writer/Director: Andrew Niccol Notable Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Vincent Kartheiser, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki