In Time

© 2011 Ray Wong

Set in an undefined future, In Time is a pseudo sci-fi thriller that is full of interesting concepts. Unfortunately, like many other high-concept movies, it's bogged down by an awful execution.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) has lived in the ghetto (known as Zone 12) all his life. In this world, humans have been genetically engineered so that they'd stop aging at age 25. At the same time, to control population, they also only have one year to live beyond that. To live longer, they have to earn "time" on their hands, literally. Time becomes the new currency. When you run out, you die.

And Will has been living from day to day, scraping by with his mother (Olivia Wilde). After saving an out-of-town stranger Henry Hamilton (Matt Borner) from local thugs, Will receives a gift -- it turns out, at over 100 years old, Henry is tired of living, so he gives Will all of his 105 years before committing suicide. His only request is that Will doesn't waste that time.

Will could have used that time for personal gains (he does, in a way), but he has a bigger plan in mind. Knowing how unfair the system is -- how people die for no reasons while others have more time than they can do with it -- he is determined to bring it down. His first stop is Zone 4, where the richest people, live. Meanwhile, he is wanted for Henry's death, and Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) is hot on his trail.

As an actor, Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits) has some talent. He's particularly good in light comedies such as Friends with Benefits or grungy tales such as Alpha Dog. As an action hero, however, he's too slight and lacks the required gravitas compared to his contemporaries such as Will Smith or Sam Worthington. He is not bad, per se. He just seems out of place.

Amanda Seyfied (Red Riding Hood) seems miscast here. Her sweet and cute persona may have worked for the character in early scenes, but once she made her jump, she is much less convincing. It doesn't help that she's running around in a cocktail dress. Cillian Murphy (Inception) has a more complex role and he does a good job playing the cop. Unfortunately, his character is such an archetype (think Javert in Les Miserables or Samuel Gerard in The Fugitive) to let him really shine.

The other players don't have much to do except to propel the plot. Olivia Wilde (Cowboys and Aliens) is underused, and her scenes lack the emotional weight because her character and relationship with Will are too underdeveloped. Similarly, Johnny Galecki (Hancock) is the typical best friend character that makes us say, "Who cares?" In a brief role, Matt Borner (Flightplan) manages to give us some depth as mysterious Henry Hamilton and make us believe he's over 100 years old.

The film is written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Lord of War), who has given us great stories such as Gattaca and The Truman Show. In the same veins of those movies, In Time is more of a fable or cautionary tale than hard sci-fi. Niccol doesn't even try to explain the science -- we're supposed to accept it and suspense our disbelief on face value. The time and place are also vague. That's all fine until the plot falls apart at the seams. Don't get me wrong. Niccol has a great concept: "Time is money" literally. And he tries to use the fable to reflect on the state of our society. That's some heavy allegory. Unfortunately, Niccol tries too hard.

The plot is a mishmash of different genres. There is, of course, a huge Fugitive-esque subplot. Then there are pieces of Robin Hood, Bonnie and Clyde, Time Cop, The Minority Report, to name a few. That's alright if Noccol had given us a fresh take and taken the story to a new height. Instead, the plot meanders. The dialogue is recycled. And the characters are not engaging or interesting, and they lack enough emotional depths to make us care. It seems to me that Niccol is more interested in exploring every piece of his high concept than giving us truly engaging story and characters. The chemistry between Timberlake and Seyfied also feels forced.

The movie has a gritty look, which is good for the ghetto scenes. However, the entire production has a cheap feel to it, as if Niccol didn't have money to spend. The Los Angeles locations get tiresome very quickly, and make us think we're stuck in a game of Auto Theft: LA. Being an Andrew Niccol fan, I'm sorely disappointed. Perhaps in time I'll forget this ever exists.

Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfied, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki, Matt Borner
Director: Andrew Niccol
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexuality, partial nudity, language
Running Time: 109 minutes


Script - 6
Performance - 6
Direction - 6
Cinematography - 7
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 6
Production - 6

Total - 6.1 out of 10.0

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