Director: Andrew Niccol
Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, Johnny Galecki
Plot: It’s 2169. Instead of money, people pay with literal seconds of their life. The rich are immortal. The poor are dying in the streets.
I love In Time. So rarely do we get an original Sci-Fi idea that stops and thinks. Even some older classics are going to have a tough time keeping up with the amount of original ideas bursting from In Time. The entire initial premise is designed to make you stop and think, questioning today’s society. In Niccol’s vision of the future, humans have been genetically altered, so at the age of 25, a clock starts ticking down on their wrist. When it runs out, you die. However, the entire social system of Earth is about earning more seconds to add to your life. Cue several 75 year old gangsters who look like 25 year old underwear models. But while on the surface, it looks like an excuse to cast beautiful people in mother roles (when Olivia Wilde is your mother, imagine the Oedipus complex going on in that house!), it is actually an endlessly intriguing debate on capitalism. People are literally working to stay alive. When a greedy company issues a pay cut or fires someone due to a recession, they are potentially sentencing someone to death. Timed out corpses litter the streets, creating a sense of a world that is able to become blind to the horrors at its door. Suddenly common issues are hit with gritty realism. Common muggers are even more menacing, as they literally leave people dead when they steal from them. The rich/poor divide is terrifyingly real, as the rich, with endless seconds on their clock, are blissfully unaware of the horror in the slums. Even outside of the wider reading, the universe breathes additional life into every aspect of the film. By fitting everyone with a ticking clock, the stakes are never anything less that astronomically high. Some segments of this film cannot help but ooze edge-of-your-seat tension without even trying. As far as Sci-Fi universes go, In Time’s background world is crammed with neat tricks and debates.
Then why does this movie fall to the ground as soon as someone tries to introduce a plot? Despite this amazing world at the director’s feet, he decides to make little more than a prolonged chase movie. Poor bloke, Justin Timberlake, ends up with an extortionate amount of time and the movie shows what he does with this gift. Hence our journey up the classes, showing just how ignorant the population is. However, there just isn’t enough story to justify the movie. Enter Cillian Murphy’s grizzled cop, who spends the movie chasing after Timberlake. Murphy is the most talented actor in the cast, but horrifically miscast. He just does not look 25, ruining any sense of logic about his character. The rest of the plot is just a terrible waste of a good idea, as we get the same scene on repeat, Timberlake and Seyfried staying underground to avoid detection. Halfway through the film, you realise you do not care as much as you should do, which is a crying shame, when the universe has the opportunity to be so rich. Saying that, the time format does mean that certain set-pieces are strong. The finale when Seyfried has a few seconds left on the clock and Timberlake has to think fast to save her is pulse-pounding. A showdown between Timberlake and Pettyfer is neatly done. A few small splashes of ingenuity in a movie that really should be rolling around in it.
Final Verdict: A great idea ruined by not enough story. This could have been so much better.