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In Time – Starts with a bang, ends with a bleh

In Time - Theater Review
Release Date: 10/28/2011 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 2 Clacks

'In Time' is an attempted high-concept action thriller that ultimately falls to pieces along with its overly obvious populist metaphor.

In Time

So, a hypothetical rhetorical question for you: How long does it take to do your job — I mean, really, let’s forget the internet surfing and seventeen “coffee” breaks. Let’s say you get paid an hour of your life for an hour of normal work, but harder work keeps you alive longer. How long would you last?

This is the conceit of the new film In Time from director Andrew Niccol (Lord of War, Gattaca), where time is a currency and people are genetically engineered to only physically age to 25 and then given only one more year of life. Which means that the poor die young and the rich can live practically forever. Our story begins with some chunky expository narration from our Robin Hood Hero Will Salas, played by Justin Timberlake (Friends with Benefits), aged 25 for 3 years, lives with his mother, played by Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy), aged 25 for 25 years.

The two eke out a barely continuing existence with working overtime and barely making enough money to pay debts and stay alive in the metaphorically named “Dayton” (get it?). But everything changes when a 105 year old young man decides he’s tired of a life of riches, boredom, and presumably idle happiness, and donates all his extra time to Will before comitting suicide. Over a century’s worth of misplaced time, which catches the attention of the local gangsters and the authorities, the “TimeKeepers” (get it? They KEEP time!), led by Cillian Murphy (Inception).

Will decides to “take down the system,” and begins by buying and gambling his way into the fancy rich sector of New Greenwich, where he meets wealthy time lender Philippe Weis, played by Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and his beautiful daughter Sylvia, played by Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!, Mean Girls), who’s actually 25 for 2 years. Before you can say “Poor Little Rich Girl,” Sylvia has got her eye on the mysterious and clearly formerly poor Will, who represents everything she’s never known. But uh oh! Officer TimeKeeper Cillian Murphy is here to confiscate the contested years and arrest Will, who absconds with Sylvia as a hostage.

Naturally Sylvia now just wants to go home — until a series of very unlikely coincidences and contrivances lead to the two… well, you know. And then it’s time for a thinly veiled pro-Marxist metaphor with a thinly veiled Robin Hood metaphor and numerous ideas of the need to “take down the system.” Yikes! The quality of the movie rapidly decreases until it ends in a sludge of cliched writing and false emotional beats.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the acting — Justin Timberlake makes a credible action star, if a bit hollow at times, and Amanda Seyfried is a successful ingenue, with wildly expressive eyes and killer cheekbones. But there’s more than a bit of creepiness there, as she resembles Olivia Wilde (Will’s mom), to the point where such oddities are called out elsewhere in the film. Their romance, though, is a mess despite their clear chemistry. Vincent Kartheiser tries to bring nuance to the role of the Evil Industrialist but can’t circumvent terrible and one-dimensional writing. Similarly, Cillian Murphy is the best in the film playing the competent and awesome TimeKeeper who only really wants justice and stability. But his character is also mangled by the heavy-handed and ridiculous script.

Time puns and number imagery abound throughout the film — to the point where it becomes a bit painful to hear. And that bizarre Robin Hood metaphor serves the movie poorly. The “moral” seems to be that immortality is itself immoral, but also that wealth should be shared even at the expense of overall stability. Essentially it’s sanctimonious drivel. A shame, because I quite like just about all the actors in the movie, but they can’t help the bad script.

Perhaps if you can turn off brain, you might enjoy this — or not. And now imagine some time-based pun about wasting it or watching the movie or reading this review, because I’m sure there will be hundreds already out there. And I won’t waste your time with such frivolities. Oops, sorry about that.



Photo Credit: New Regency Pictures

2 Responses to “In Time – Starts with a bang, ends with a bleh”

October 28, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Great review. Science fiction is an excellent vehicle for exploring all kinds of current issues, but I hate it when writers create false analogies in an attempt to make their position on an issue seem stronger than it is. The trailer for this movie looked fun, but I think the story will annoy the hell out of me.

December 7, 2011 at 2:54 AM

i don’t care what anyone says- justin timberlake is not an actor. we need to stop encouraging his delusions

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