“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.