by Brett Gallman
In the world of "In Time,"time itself is a precious commodity, which probably makes it altogether ironic that not enough of it was spent on the film's script. Though it has an admittedly clever hook, it's one that gets stretched out rather tediously over the course of nearly two hours, which indeed means it isn't mindful of how to spend its time, either (note: I'm trying my hardest not to cram the word "time" into every sentence, which is something Andrew Niccol seemingly struggled with in the screenplay).Taking a concept from Harlan Ellison (and we know it's from Harlan Ellison because his legal eagles swooped in and sued the producers), it presents a future world where people quit aging when they turn 25 years old. At that point, a clock that's inscribed on their arm starts to countdown; if it hits zero, the person keels over instantly. As such, time has become the new currency, and everyone has to find a way to get more. The proletariat like Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) literally live day to day, working menial jobs to stay alive. One day, he bumps into a wealthy man at a bar who has managed to store up over a century; tired of living (he's really 105 years old), he gives Will his time (you can transfer it by physical contact) and commits suicide.
"What's cooler than a million years? A billion years."
A perfectly legal transaction, actually; however, no one quite believes him since he's a poor guy walking around with the equivalent of a million bucks. That's just the kernel of the set-up, really, as the plot just spirals all over the place from here; somewhere along the way, his mom dies (Olivia Wilde), and he vows to "make them (rich people) pay," a vague plan which apparently entails buying expensive cars and falling for the daughter (Amanda Seyfried) of a wealthy time baron. She eventually becomes the Bonnie to his Clyde as they avoid authorities and a gang (evidently, there's only one gang of time thieves in this universe).
Okay, that's obviously a mouthful of plot, and "In Time" meanders about as much as you might expect. Essentially just a techie update of a "man on the run"picture, it certainly features a lot of that--about 90 minutes of it, in fact, so it gets a bit repetitive. As it lurched on, I continuously found myself poking holes at the script, particularly the various contrivances that allowed the characters to easily move from A to B without much resistance. There's a lot of those, but the movie's entire setup basically hinges on one; see, cameras are setup to capture everything in this dystopia except the stuff that would help our protagonist. The police (or "timekeepers") see him show up at the scene of his benefactor's death, but they don't actually catch the guy committing suicide, most likely because there'd be no movie if it did.
Admittedly, I'm the last guy that will begrudge a pulpy sci-fi thriller of a questionable plot, at least if it's cool enough. Unfortunately, "In Time" really isn't. It dangles some neat things in front of you, and Timberlake actually does get a sweet action moment that involves arm wrestling and a handgun. Had there been more of that and some genuine wit to the script, this might have been a neat little thrill-ride. Instead, we get about a dozen puns on the word "time" and some flat, clunky one-liners that even Timberlake can't make cool.
We're past the point where we question Timberlake's acting chops, I think. However, this is the first time he's been giving the leading man role in an action flick. He fares well enough, I guess, though I don't think EON is going to be banging down his door to make him the next James Bond (that whole not being British thing probably doesn't help anyway). If nothing else, he looks dashing in a suit and can run very well while holding the hand of a pretty girl. In this case, that's Amanda Seyfried, who I've liked in other films (she's the real star of "Jennifer's Body"); she seems a bit out of her element here, though. That she gets some of the worst lines doesn't help her cause, but Bonnie Parker she ain't., as she's more like a spoiled little rich girl with a gun and remarkably good aim, considering she's never left her house.
Just looking at these two speaks to the misfire; I mean, Timberlake is undeniably suave, while Seyfried's got this retro London mod scene look going on, so they'd be a fun couple to follow if they were given anything to do. Instead, they're just stuck running around in a similarly interesting but under-cooked Orwellian world that doesn't seem to be too far removed from our own. As they bounce from various time-heists and some genuinely suspenseful races against time, the cycle repeats probably one or two times too many, as the novelty wears thin after a while.
Perhaps the most interesting thing (besides the presence of Johnny Galecki, who is only around long enough for you to say "hey, Johnny Galecki!") are the socio-economic politics barely rumbling under the surface. The premise lends itself to some obvious rhetoric of haves and have-nots that's quite similar to all of the stuff occupying headlines these days. While "In Time"certainly suppresses this beneath its pulp, it manages to espouse some fairly radical, even socialist viewpoints. Too bad it isn't provocative or dangerous enough with this stuff, as it eventually turns into more of an apolitical Robin Hood tale of the poor pilfering the rich.And it's not an altogether bad one at that; merely a generic one that might barely be worth your time.
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originally posted: 10/29/11 14:06:25