Now Showing On Cable: “In Time”

Making its debut last weekend on HBO was 2011’s “In Time”, directed by Andrew Niccol, and starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried.

“In Time” is a Sci-Fi thriller with an intriguing premise. In the future, people are genetically engineered to stop aging physically at age 25, but are given artificial expiration dates thereafter. Thus, even though they stay young, they’re not allowed to live unless they keep working, and even then they only extend their time (and lives) in mild increments. Time (tracked on a green counter on your arm) can be earned and spent like money, but when your time runs out, your time is up. The poor are forced to labor and scurry in order to stay alive, while the rich stay safe and secure, protecting their immortality.

The premise sets up a thematically fertile framework. Inequality of wealth, immortality, police states, genetic engineering…

The question for “In Time” is, can it make the most of its potential?

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a ghetto dweller living day by day, barely earning enough credit each day to survive to report to work the next day.

One evening he runs into a man in a bar who’s buying drinks for everyone in the house. While the people of the ghetto routinely manage with time banks of days and hours, this man has a century on his arm. Will realizes immediately that the man’s life is in danger… that the local criminal element will kill him without hesitation for that amount of time. After Will assists the man in escaping (as a local gang does, indeed, try to kill him for his time), the two have a frank discussion. It seems that having eternal life has devalued being alive. The man, in spite of having a hundred years to live (also the equivalent of being extremely rich, too, as time can be spent like money), is suicidal. He’s given up. Not only is he tired of living, he has a guilty conscience.

He explains to Will the truth about time. It’s an artificial contrivance to keep the world’s population down. With natural selection eliminated, artificial selection needed to be created.

The man transfers his century to Will (as he sleeps) and then takes his own life. Will is left with a nearly limitless amount of wealth and an entire lifetime to live. Thing is, that kind of transfer of wealth is bound to attract notice. When the police find the body, they’re less worried about whodunit and more worried about where his time went. Thus they begin to track Will, who eventually makes his way to a different “Time Zone” (into the wealthy city). There, he meets Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of one of the lynchpins of the time system. He’s forced to kidnap her in order to escape the police at one point, but it’s not long before Sylvia not only falls for him, but also comes around to his way of thinking. Once she sees how the poor have to live from day to day, she joins forces with Will in what becomes a fight against the system.

Unfortunately, “In Time” lets the chase/action element take precedence over the sci-fi. Instead of a thought provoking movie… one that gives a decent examination of the themes presented within, we get a movie that’s really just a piece of entertainment. There are obvious parallels between the current American income disparity and the movie’s system of “time”, yet the deepest thing that “In Time” has to say about it really is “it’s bad”. They touch slightly on the concept of immortality, and why that actually might not be as desirable as one might think, but again, it’s not a concept that’s explored with any kind of depth. Sadly, whenever “In Time” has something to say, it literally says it. As opposed to building characters and letting their actions (and acting) speak to the ideas being presented, “In Time” will use dialogue to spoon feed the audience what it’s trying to say.

Thankfully enough, it’s still fairly entertaining. The concept is a novel one, and so, even though you probably will be wishing it amounted to more, at least it feels like it has a touch of originality to it (of course, it still borrows from dozens of films, “Logan’s Run”, “Bonnie and Clyde”, etc etc). Timberlake and Seyfried don’t exactly create memorable characters or anything, but they’re fine. Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde and Vincent Kartheiser all play supporting roles.

It’s a decent time killer on a weekend afternoon… seeing it on cable felt about the perfect place to finally catch it.

B-

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47 thoughts on “Now Showing On Cable: “In Time”

  1. A classic case of ‘Great idea, Badly executed’ Fogs. I was quite disappointed in this. Not that I really expected too much but because it wasted it’s fantastic premise.

    • Yeah, this is a movie that could use a remake down the road. By someone who’s going to take that concept and flesh out a really thought provoking movie with it.

      Because this aint it. LOL

  2. Saw this one in the cinema. Had high hopes coming from the guy who gave us Gattaca. It’s not totally bad. Just bad enough. Mildly entertaining. I guess it’s for the current MTV generation and for them to say they saw a “cool” sci-fi film. (Wow.. sound like my DAD! If he knew what MTV was.)

    Could make for an awesome drinking game. Drink whenever someone mentions a unit of time!

  3. “Time Killer” indeed! This movie kept me just enough interested to keep watching, but I kept waiting for that epiphany. I guess they just ran out of time!

    I like the drinking game idea!

      • Really good premise, and for the first half of the movie I was really enjoying it… right up until they decided the movie they wanted to make was a low-budget vaguely sci-fi-ish version of Bonnie and Clyde. Then the movie really fell apart on a lot of levels, from the cars, to the locations, camera work, editing, even to the music. It really looked like their were 2 teams of film-makers, one, the professionals, produced the first half, and one, their college age children, made the second half. Really disappointing.

      • “a low-budget vaguely sci-fi-ish version of Bonnie and Clyde.” – that would be a “truth in advertising” tagline right there, LOL!

        It definitely didnt come anywhere near delivering on its premise, thats for sure.

  4. Great premise but this turns into an unintentional comedy. That scene where he and his mom are running toward each other had me rolling on the floor.

  5. Sci-fi originality counts big with me. Good fresh idea here but wasn’t mined for it’s value. The phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” kept occurring to me. If your money and your life were literally in the same place, why would you have it in such an exposed spot?

  6. I saw this on an airline. Glad I didn’t waste my money elsewhere. Horrible acting, cheesy dialog, and brain dead writing. Such a shame given the great concept.

    • You were a captive audience, LOL.

      That’s exactly what I’m saying about it. I enjoyed it enough (I enjoy cheesy dont think too hard sci-fi), but man, with that concept, it could have been something really really good.

  7. You were way too kind to this film. I would give it a D. I already talked a great deal about the problems on my site, but if your doing nothing else and its on TV it might be okay.

    • I dunno, I’m not that harsh on movies. It was entertaining enough to kill a couple of hours with. It never really pissed me off or anything – probably because it didnt take enough risks, though

  8. I felt much the same way. You really are spoon-fed the morality they are trying to get to. Its entertaining, but the sci-fi potential is way off base. Both with the concept parallels that you pointed out, but also with the actual science behind it.

      • Well, it make no discernible sense. How can grabbing someone’s wrist and turning it a particular way transfer an exact amount of what I assume must be polymerase. Its pretty silly. At least Gattaca had a good scientific basis behind it, which is why that movie worked so much better.

  9. A seriously disappointing film, considering how much potential there is in its concept. And even when it does try to grasp for higher ideals than “watch Justin run”, it usually misses the mark. I wound up giving it three stars when I reviewed it (here if you’re interested), and that was largely on the strength of the premise. There’s just too much wrong with the actual film for me to rate it higher than that.

  10. You’re very generous with that grade, i barely made it through the movie, the only things that kept me watching was Murphy and the score which was about 10 times better than the movie itself. Timberlake is like a freaking poison for movies.

  11. I was just talking to my British colleague who saw this on the plane here to the US branch, and we both felt that it could’ve been a LOT better movie if it had a more compelling cast and direction. I was quite generous in my rating as I like the concept but like you said, it’s only worth a rental/on cable as it was mildly entertaining. The concept had so much potential though, could’ve been a sci-fi classic.

    • Agreed. Solid high concepts like this don’t grow on trees… I really feel like they squandered a golden opportunity here. :(

      Entertaining enough for a rental/cable watch though, as you point out…

    • ” could have been a sci-fi classic”. You are right on that one. Writers and directors droped the ball on this one. Great concept but boring movie.

  12. Saw this one yesterday. I thought it was ok. I would have graded it a little lower say a C+. Not much to this movie. You were right that it kinda stole from other movies like Bonnie and Clyde. They left a great deal out for a Sci-fi flick. Technology, explanation on how humanity got to that point, world stats like population. I found lots of holes in this flick, to many to put in here. It was entertaining for a lazy afternoon but that’s about it.

    • You know? I could have graded it lower too… I just thought it was a decent enough little time killer.

      It is definitely hard not to focus on how bad they dropped the ball though. There was tons of potential in this concept, but they didnt even come close to realzing it.

      Its a bummer.

  13. For me, this wound up being one of 2011’s worst. How do you take a great cast and a great premise and botch the whole production so badly?

    Partly I think the issue lies in Nichols. The guy wrote a ridiculously bloated movie; structurally, it’s weighed down by too much at every turn. Too many antagonists. Too many plot threads. Too many characters. If Nichols had someone writing with him who could have trimmed the fat, this might have turned out better, but there’s too much going on and not enough time to develop each disparate element.

    After that, frankly, the whole movie is just kinda stupid. It’s sci-fi for people who don’t like to think much. It’s simplified to the point of being mildly insulting, and on top of that, the film never really bothers to explore its potential in really meaningful ways. It’s just a bad action movie that happens to have sci-fi elements that it doesn’t respect enough to really cultivate.

    JT’s solid, but that’s about the nicest thing I have to say about this.

  14. I dont know that I’d go so far as to call it one of the worst movies of the year…. it was vapid as hell, but entertaining enough.

    You are SPOT ON about it being sci-fi for people who dont want to think though, that’s hysterical. Totally accurate. “Bad Action movie with uncultivated sci-fi elements” is a DVD box quote they should use if they wanted to be factual! :D

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