Title: In Time
Director: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Johnny Galecki, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde, Collins Pennie
Once in a while you need a movie that lets you just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Sure, these films can be rather mindless, but spoon-fed entertainment can make for a fun night out. On the other hand, that’s no excuse to take a notable novel premise and never bring it to its intellectual and emotional potential. With highly entertaining and thoughtful movies like Gattaca and The Truman Show on his resume, you’d expect something rather exceptional from writer-director Andrew Niccol. However, with In Time he’s got that brilliant idea, but never digs deep, leaving us with nothing more than a high concept.
Sometime in the future, people are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25-years-old. At birth, each person’s given one free year and then the moment he or she turns 25, the timer on his or her forearm starts counting down. Time is literally money so the only way the population can avoid timing out and maintain a living is by working for more time or by stealing it.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) resides in Dayton, one of the poorest zones in the country, a place where everyone lives day-to-day and hopes to get paid before their hours run out. When a wealthy man stumbles into Will’s part of town, rather than continue to enjoy his near-immortal existence, he opts to take his own life, but not before giving Will his 100+ years. With his newfound time, Will heads to New Greenwich, a place where people have so much time, they hire round-the-clock bodyguards to protect them. However, Will isn’t just there to play and enjoy his fortune, rather spread the wealth and defy the system.
Great concept, right? Of course it is! But that doesn’t mean it’s executed properly. In fact, the premise of Niccol’s film is so intensely exciting and intriguing, it runs the risk of coming across as too idealistic and therefore too silly. Sure enough, the rules of this world are sadly dumbed down to the level of a teenage fantasy.
While this rather simple format is quite useful in terms of keeping the material light and the pace of the piece appropriately quick, it does result in a number of logic issues. It’s tough to digest two elements of Will’s new fortune – why does Will care enough to help the troubled Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) and then why does Henry choose Will? Sure, Will’s a nice guy, but doesn’t he have a family member or close friend he’d prefer to bestow the honor upon?
When the film hits New Greenwich, it basically turns into a futuristic version of Bonnie and Clyde. Will puts his gambling skills to use in a high stakes casino and snags a number of years from Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), one of the richest guys out there and the father of Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried). Then, during a Weis family party, Will kidnaps Sylvia, planning to hold her for ransom and then bring his earnings back to the people of Dayton. However, Sylvia starts to enjoy the situation and defying her father, and the duo winds up robbing banks, her father’s banks. Not only are they most certainly not Bonnie and Clyde, but, again, these moments raise more questions; Where do they get that armored truck and why do the civilians leave time in the nearly demolished vault? The time is free for the taking and yet people run away leaving tons behind.
And, of course, if this is Bonnie and Clyde, Sylvia and Will need law enforcement to hunt them down. In comes Cillian Murphy as Raymond Leon, a timekeeper and proud of it. In fact, he notes his title at every possible opportunity. While Murphy makes for a solid all-business antagonist, his character finds himself struggling with two weak story points. First, he knows Will’s father and makes a point of it, but that element doesn’t wind up revealing much about either character. Then there’s his propensity to live day-to-day like the poor folks rather than keep a safe amount of his timekeeper’s paycheck on him. Also in the villainous department is Alex Pettyfer’s Fortis, a name I must admit I never did catch in the film. Either this script isn’t big enough for two foes or Niccol just couldn’t handle them because while Fortis gets a bold introduction, he eventually gets lost in the action. In fact, it seems as though Niccol might have realized that himself because during a long absence in the middle of the film, Fortis randomly pops up in just a single shot during a sequence to show he’s still watching.
Oddly, enough it’s two supporting characters that make the biggest impact, Olivia Wilde as Rachel Salas, Will’s mother, and Johnny Galecki as Borel, Will’s best pal. Without spoiling anything, Will has experiences with both that are quite emotional and have a lasting impact. As for our leading duo, they’re fine, but that’s all and that’s actually something that plagues the film as a whole. Niccol has this fantastic concept, but then turns it into a run-of-the-mill feature, hinting at, but never delving into the real life problems it touches upon and also merely grazing the surface of his characters. Also on a sour note, the editing in In Time is especially off. Many bits of action don’t cut well, certain shot transitions are jarring and Zach Staenberg seems to have a tough time figuring when to cut to reaction shots, all of which is quite odd as The Matrix, City of Ember and a number of Staenberg’s other features are impeccable.
However, there still is the fact that In Time boasts an extremely interesting premise as well as a relentless pace, leaving us with something that’s not only watchable, but somewhat enjoyable. With a running time of just under two hours, the whole experience flies by rather quickly and, in the end, leaves you with the feeling that it wasn’t all that bad. Just don’t try to make sense of it after the credits roll.