The concept behind In Time is ridiculously simple: “What if time really is money?” Taking an interesting concept and turning it into an interesting movie’s not always as simple, but In Time, fortunately, is in the capable hands of Andrew Niccol. As the writer of The Truman Show and the writer/director of Gattaca, he’s proven that he knows how to put a good sci-fi thriller together, and In Time keeps his streak going.
In a not-too-distant Orwellian-ish future, there’s no such thing as money. Everything you buy is paid for with time, and when you run out of time, you die. (To help keep track, every person has a running countdown clock embedded in his or her arm.) Oh, and everyone stops aging at 25, so the entire world is full of people who look fresh out of college but are, in fact, 106. And, because of that, if you have the time, you can live forever.
No backstory is given as to how the world got to any of these points, and frankly it’s not needed. Niccol gives us everything we need to know and not a bit more.
Justin Timberlake plays Will, a young man who works paycheck-to-paycheck (and therefore rarely has more than 24 hours on his countdown clock). When he unexpectedly comes into possession of more than a century’s-worth of time and then endures a particular heart-wrenching bit of tragedy, he decides it’s time to go rogue. He wants to fix ‘the system’ by becoming a future-day Robin Hood… giving time away to the poor.
During his crusade he bumps into Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of the world’s richest man (Vincent Kartheiser). After taking her hostage, Will helps her see that re-distributing all her daddy’s time could make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives. A particularly determined cop (Cillian Murphy), though, is hot on Will’s trail, trying to bring him (and eventually Sylvia, too) to justice.
While the underlying message of In Time is about as subtle as a fuel-laden truck crashing into a fireworks factory, the movie still works, because (A) it stays true to its premise and (B) never takes itself too seriously.
Niccol has created an interesting world that is both eerily similar to today’s society and at the same time completely upside-down… which, of course, clears the way for a barrage of ‘timely’ puns: There’s a gang called the Minutemen. Cops are called Timekeepers. And, of course, there’s plenty of opportunity for characters to ask each other if they “have a second”. It’s just the right mix of funny and heavy; had it been even a little more serious, In Time would have felt like a bad mash-up of Blade Runner and 1984. And had it been a bit sillier, it might well have come off as a bad Saturday Night Live skit.
Timberlake and Seyfried, neither of whom are generally noted for their acting ability, both shine brighter than they have in recent memory; in fact, I’m this close to forgiving Seyfried for Red Riding Hood.
All in all, In Time is certainly worth your, well…