By Gary Murray
Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried & Cillian Murphy
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol
Running time 115 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
In the last few years, science fiction has become the main part of the mainstream. What was once the domain of silly rubber monsters destroying civilization has become something more, blending with genres such as western and film noir. The latest film to take on the realm of the fantastic is the new Justine Timberlake tale In Time.
It is a world where everyone has a clock imbedded on their arms. At 25, the individual is frozen at that age with the clock starts with a one year countdown. Everyone looks like a young adult even though they may be very old. Example—his mom is fifty yet played by Olivia Wilde.
Here’s the kick of the film–once the clock runs out, the individual is dead. Work is paid in time and expenses are taken off such as a cup of coffee is four minutes. Every section of the land is separated by giant walls, keeping the people of low time away from the people who have centuries on their arms. By holding each others hands, time can be transferred. In this land, time can get you killed.
Will Salas (Justine Timberlake) is a young man three years past his 25 struggling to keep enough time on his arm. In this world, time costs keep going up and the poor people struggle to keep enough time on their arms.
At a bar, a man with a century on his arm tells Will that it is all a lie and that living forever young is its own hell. He tells Will that we were meant to die. Will helps the man escape from nefarious elements who want to take the time. In the morning, Will finds that the century is on his arm and the man commits suicide.
With a hundred years to burn, Will wants to go into the highest level of the city where the richest of the rich live and take down the system. Almost immediately he draws the eye of Sylvia Weis, a little rich girl who never thinks about anything more than her little world. Before one can say ‘fish out of water’ Will is accused of killing the man for his time wealth. Will kidnaps Sylvia and the two go on the run.
The film is how these two become the couple who steals from the rich to give to the poor. There goal is to tear down the system and give everyone a more equal distribution of time. Cillian Murphy plays the cop who is tasked with bringing them to justice.
Amanda Seyfried who was so charming in Mama Mia looks lost in her role as little rich girl Sylvia. Her pageboy red wig gives her big eyes the look that they are bulging with every breath. She is uncomfortable with a handgun and firing the weapon becomes more of a comic beat. A woman so adept with romantic comedies and lighter faire is not suited for a role that needed a harder edge.
This is the big leading man push for Justine Timberlake and he delivers a workman job. He’s basically a guy on the run with little to do other than keep up the wind sprints. He does have a certain boyish charm with the character but it becomes harder to by him once we see the harder edge of the character.
Director/writer Andrew Niccol crafts an interesting premise with In Time, but it almost comes across as being silly. As the film plays across the screen, the suspension of disbelief becomes a greater challenge. At times it borrows from half a dozen better films and never finds a true original beat of its own.
It is well known that doing highbrow science fiction is much harder than it looks. It is not only a realm where idea is king, but the best of the best brings both new different characters and unexpected twists. In Time doesn’t deliver on that level. The problem is that it isn’t a lowbrow beast flick, ones that are so bad they are a hoot to watch. This film suffers from being mediocre, falling in the no-man’s land of neither great nor greatly bad.
A friend of mine likes to sum up films the way they do in Hollywood pitch meetings, meaning comparing the film to two others. He called this one “Logan’s Run meets Bonnie & Clyde” which is a good way to describe. I think a better way to describe it is ‘kind of dull’.