Time is Money
Movie Review: "In Time"
Published: Friday, October 28, 2011
Updated: Friday, October 28, 2011 13:10
"In Time" is a science-fiction "thriller" that never quite reaches whatever it is the film is going for. Consider it a jack-of-all-trades: it has romance, action, car chases, witty banter, a Robin Hood-esque plot about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, attractive actors, and an underlying message very relevant to today's society. Unfortunately, the emotional depth of the piece is lost in the shuffle. Instead of excelling at any one thing, it becomes a disjointed collaboration of everything.
The film is set in a dystopian future somewhat resembling the modern age, but where we have been genetically modified with neon green clocks in our arm to never age past 25. When a person turns 25, they have a year on their clock and, if they want to live longer, have to go out into the world and earn their time. In this film, time is money; literally. Time can be given, stolen, earned for a hard day's labor (via resting ones' wrist in the cradle of a scanner), or even stored on special devices. Will (Justin Timberlake), a resident of the "Dayton" ghetto, works hard and literally lives day-to-day. When Will rescues a drunken and restless man, Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer, "White Collar"), from some "minutemen," Henry explains that people aren't meant to live forever because the mind can grow weary even when the body is healthy. The 105-year-old forks over the 106 years left on his clock to Will, willingly facing his death.
Enter the "timekeeper" Ray (Cillian Murphy), and the cops of the dystopian society, who believe Will is responsible for Henry's death. Ray is a vital figure throughout the film, but plays more as a plot device than a character with depth, grossly under utilizing Murphy's talents. He spends the film tirelessly pursuing justice in spite of the moral implications of the system and drops continuous exposition about the father Will barely knew, a side-story that never fully develops and seems forced.
After a game of cards and a new friendship with Philippe Weis, Will is invited into the Weis home and leaves with a thanks by kidnapping Philippe's daughter, Syvlia (Amanda Seyfried). Philippe is played by Vincent Kartheiser, who brings the same subtlety charismatic and nobly selfish image that he has perfected in his role on "Mad Men." He and Amanda Seyfried's naivety are the best part of the film, bringing a refreshing balance to Timberlake's constant heroics and Murphy's jaded quips.
Sylvia joins Will in a sort of "Bonnie and Clyde" endeavor to change the system, where the rich keep getting richer and the poor continue to die. Exchange time for money and the film becomes an all too modern portrayal of America's economic system. This film feels made for the "99 percent", but fails to offer a real-world solution to the problem. Sometimes the message feels beaten over one's head, while at other times it plays nicely as a subtle undertone. The dialogue and writing comes in similar bouts, sometimes offering amazing wit with a genuine humor, while other times feeling straight out of the Hollywood cliché mold. Some plot points don't feel well established, while other twists feel integrated from the beginning. The entire film seems confused about what exactly it is trying to be.
Confusion isn't always a bad thing. Though the film never manages to reach the point of fulfillment that any well-focused piece attempts, it remains entertaining. Timberlake, in the opening scene, stares lovingly at the beautiful Olivia Wilde and moves to embrace her before announcing: "Hi, Mom." The film, especially through Seyfried, maintains that surprising bit of off kilter humor and twists throughout. Niccols also subtly acknowledges how attractive all of his many characters are and makes no apology for it, flaunting the faults and benefits of such a beautiful society. When Will is caught watching Sylvia before their introduction, for example, Philippe makes a quip about knowing Will is hoping she is Philippe's daughter and not his wife or mother.
While not the strongest film out there and while it barely counts as a thriller, "In Time" remains one of the better films in theaters right now for simple entertainment if one is free from expectations. It is the rare science-fiction film that functions best as a date movie, offering car chases for him, romantic bantering for her, and a dark premise that never becomes depressing. Afterward, you may even come to appreciate this time for all its worth.