In Time

Imagine a world where everyone is under 25. Yes, it's a sci-fi Hollyoaks.

 

2 stars

 

 

In Time - Timberlake and Seyfried make a run for it.

 

Director: Andrew Niccol

Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde

 

Amanda Seyfried in In Time

In Time literalises that cliché that time is money. It's set in a dystopian future where every human is genetically programmed to stop ageing at 25. They then die exactly a year later.

 

However, this can be circumvented by acquiring more time, by working for it, stealing it, being given it or inheriting it. This is possible because time can be carried in battery like devices and transferred by touch. Thus, the rich live in luxury, hiding boxes full of centuries in sealed vaults, while the poor live literally day to day, earning the right to live until tomorrow morning during the course of a backbreaking shift at a factory.

 

It's a strong idea, an easily graspable metaphor for the asymmetric nature of western capitalism and the moral poverty of many attitudes to it. Having an entirely young and attractive cast (It's a star vehicle for Justin Timberlake but Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfriend, Johnny Galecki, Matt Bomer, Vincent Karthesier, Elena Satine, Alex Pettfyer and Cillian Murphy also feature) sharpens the horror of the fruitless, desperate lives lived by those in the ghettos.

 

The picture's topic at these points is the crushing inevitability of human mortality. The cast's youth brings something universal into sharper focus. In this respect it echoes, but is not as successful as, the recent cinema adaptation of Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

 

Timberlake plays one of the exploited inhabitants of those ghettos, an only child living with his old mum (Wilde), who inadvertently acquires centuries of life from a suicidal, depressed Centenarian. He resolves to start a new life with it, but when the authorities refuse to accept he's come by his literal lease on life honestly, he resolves to bring down the system from within, enlisting the help of poor little rich girl, Seyfriend, along the way.

 

In Time wears its influences on its sleeve. Logan's Run is an obvious influence and the picture's whole aesthetic is borrowed from the dystopian SF thrillers of the 1970s. There's also more than a touch of Bonnie & Clyde to its 'Lovers on the Run' plot. To be fair, how could there not be? Although here it seems filtered through Tarantino's True Romance.

 

In Time - Timberlake meets Seyfried

There are also similarities to Harlan Ellison's multiple award winning short story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman. Sufficiently so, in fact, for Mr Ellison to make suggestions to this effect via his lawyer.

 

One scene, you'll know it when you see it, is undoubtedly indebted to, of all things, Grease.

 

Kiwi Writer/Director Andrew Niccol has a long history of doing SF or pseudo SF films which play with ideas about society. He wrote Gattaca and The Truman Show and also directed the former. Here his ideas are good, his themes robust but his direction is uninspired, his characters stock and his dialogue often poor.

 

I, for one, remain unconvinced that people who lived in a society where time has been a currency for centuries would be quite as enamoured of time based puns as many of the characters herein.

 

Timberlake is an efficient, if unremarkable, lead. Wilde's is an effective cameo. Karthesier is a fantastic villain, aided by the surely coincidental resemblance between his character and UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. Murphy is underutilised in what's effectively a Darth Vader role. His character's demise is almost entirely unsatisfactory and feels contrary to the arc he's taken across the film. That may be the point, of course.

 

There's a great Marxist parable hiding inside this dystopian action thriller with pop star lead. It is, after all, a story in which the hero saves the world with a massive act of wealth redistribution, but the picture seems frightened to fully follow through with this.

 

A lot of time is spent on the apparent emptiness of the lives of those 'condemned' to live for centuries. Condemned, that is, by their own greed and selfishness. It is not easy to empathise with them.

 

This may resonant with teenagers fond of bland vampire romances, but it does rather damage what the story's main point is clearly meant to be. It can't be a case of different drafts of the script being at war with each other, as only Niccol is credited. It's just a case of pulling its punches.

 

Timberlake and Seyfried in In Time

In Time doesn't achieve what it sets out to do, but it has an accomplished and arresting try. Is this going to be enough though? Does it have the potential to be a crossover hit? Will its odd star presence, action scenes and hot cast sell it? Perhaps.

 

Or is it likely to be, like Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Day (another film it resembles), adored by a small audience while ignored by everyone else?

 

Time will tell.

 

Sorry.

 

Jim Smith

 

 

Click here for the trailer:

 

 

In Time
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