In Time (2011)

16 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Someone has taken the phrase “time is money” way too seriously, in order to have the regular-Hollywood amount of time to create the sci-fi/action film “In Time.” I say that because in “In Time,” the currency of the future (or a parallel dimension, which I will accept more) is time. Thanks to genetic alternation, humanity stops aging at 25 and “time” to continue living can be transferred among individuals, shown on a timer-clock implanted on people’s arms—when the clock stops, the person dies. Think of it as a visible internal clock. You go and purchase something, you pay with your own time. You want more time, open an account at the “time bank.” Like money, be careful how you spend it; though in this case, be careful not to use it up and end your life.  The poor, with limited time to live for even a day, live in the ghettos of Dayton. The rich, who have enough time to live for centuries, live in the deluxe New Greenwich.

In the movies, it’s always miserable in the future, isn’t it?

If that genetic-altering element sounds even a little like the setup for a film such as “Gattaca,” it should be, as Andrew Niccol, who happened to make “Gattaca” in 1997, directed “In Time” as well. But “In Time” is a slick, entertaining, well-made film that has fun with its premise, does a great job of establishing the rules of this world, and gives us some real characters to root for and against.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is 28 years old and lives with his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde), who is 50 but still looks 25. They live day-to-day, but Rachel’s time has run out and she expires because she couldn’t get to Will in time for a “recharge.” At the same time, Will has been given an incredible amount of time by a wealthy stranger (Matt Bomer) who believes that people shouldn’t live forever and just make the most of their time. The stranger gives up almost all of his time before he dies. Provoked by his mother’s death, Will decides to go to New Greenwich to somehow gamble enough time for most people in the ghetto.

A “Timekeeper” (a “time cop,” if you will) named Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) accuses Will of murdering the stranger and corners him with the charges of murder and theft. To get away, Will takes Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried)—daughter of the wealthy Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser)—hostage. They go on the run and eventually Sylvia becomes Will’s fugitive accomplice as they plan to rob the banks of time and deliver to the less fortunate.

This is when “In Time” switches gears and turns into a futuristic version of “Bonnie and Clyde” mixed with a Robin Hood tale. Surprisingly, this is not the downgrade I expected it to be. In many ways, it’s respectful that the story would continue as opposed to laying down new rules of this world. We’ve set up the story, and now we’re going on a little journey.

Some things are a little clumsy, like all the obvious puns involving “time” (though now that I think about it, “time is money” is never used at all). And also, I kept asking questions like, why age 25? Why not 35 or 40? I won’t question that anymore; it’s their logic, not mine. But I can ask why this way of life was chosen. What was the purpose of this to begin with?

What I did like are the ways in which this time-currency concept is developed, and it leads to some intriguing scenes of surprise. For example, there’s a scene in which Will and Philippe are playing a high-stakes poker game where time is on the line—you’re betting your life for this game. And I enjoyed the littler elements, such as these handheld cartridges that these people use to grant themselves more “time.”

Justin Timberlake has already established himself as a real talented actor, and while he’s not necessarily playing one with so many dimensions, he is likable and enough to hold our attention for almost two hours of running time. Amanda Seyfried (sporting an odd hair choice) is quite engaging as Sylvia. She starts out as a captive, but once she becomes an accomplice in Will’s plan, she’s allowed to have some genuine cool moments. Vincent Kartheiser is suitably creepy as Philippe and Olivia Wilde also deserves credit for being surprisingly credible as Will’s mother, given the circumstances (and also, Timberlake is actually three years older than Wilde in reality).

Is “In Time” worth your time? Well, if you have very little time to waste, I probably wouldn’t recommend it. For those with too much time on their hands, I would have to say…something other than “check out ‘In Time’” but otherwise, it’s fine. I can relate to both at certain points in life, and I do recommend “In Time.”

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