The adage “time is money” was never more aptly used than in writer/director Andrew Niccol’s new offering In Time. Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, an inhabitant of a dystopian world were time instead of money is traded for resources. Genetic modifications have allowed people virtual immortality, requiring populations to be managed. Everybody has a genetic clock embedded in their forearm that tracks its host’s age. People stop aging at twenty-five, after which they have to earn time from jobs, or steal it, to carry on living.
The rich are those that have more time than they know what to do with, and when Salas, who’s down to his last few hours, saves a suicidal rich man with a century on his clock from a violent encounter, the man rewards him with his time, which can be transferred from arm to arm. This massive increase in virtual wealth allows Salas to buy his way into the rich side of town, though the death of his youthful mother triggers a vengeful plan to topple the status quo.
There’s a thinly veiled allegory at work here, where the privilege gap between the top 1% and the struggling-to-survive is starkly drawn, and is particularly topical in the current economic climate.
It’s an interesting premise for a movie, and certainly feels to be in capable hands (Niccol directed 1997’s Gattaca and co-wrote the highly regarded The Truman Show), at least for the first half. Thereafter the plot becomes mired in an hackneyed action movie format, as Salas teams with Sylvia Weis (played by Amanda Seyfried) the brattish daughter of the superrich bad guy (Vincent Kartheiser) responsible for this time-centric control system.
Salas is pursued by the time-keepers, the cops tasked with preventing abuses of the system. Cillian Murphy plays the head time-keeper with a panache that steals every scene he’s in, presenting a watchable counterpoint to Timberlake’s somewhat wooden performance.
I really wanted to like this movie, but I couldn’t help feeling a little more thought was required in especially the third act. I still feel it’s worth going to see, however.
Rating: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. Opened 28 October.