Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Galecki, Olivia Wilde, Elena Satine
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
20th Century Fox
Writer/director Andrew Niccol's In Time is a beautiful film with beautiful people... until they open their mouths. When their mouths are open, and since this isn't a silent film that happens quite often, In Time mediocre sci-fi thriller with a muddled message and an inconsistent tone that bounces between simplistic action thriller and something more akin to the usual thought-provoking Niccol production. Niccol has previously given us the films Gattaca and The Truman Show, neither one a brilliant film but both films are heady, entertaining and inspired.
The concept behind In Time is certainly heady. Life has been reduced to the ultimate expression of living "on borrowed time," as human beings have become genetically manipulated creatures who are rigged to stop aging at 25. From that moment, a digital stopwatch located on their forearm does the ultimate final countdown towards their death a year later. In these final days, everything becomes precious as time is currency and, of course, everything has a price ranging from 4 minutes for a cup of coffee to two hours for a bus ride. The rich, of course, can afford to buy more time. The poor, of course, inevitably run through their time even more quickly. In essence, In Time becomes "Occupy: The Forearm."
The poor live in a grim, industrialized area known as Dayton. The rich, get this, live in an area known as New Greenwich (I don't really have to explain that, do I?). Timberlake plays Will Salas, a working class joe who unexpectedly acquires the gift of a century from a wealthy yet suicidal stranger. Not surprisingly, when the stranger's body is discovered it's Will who immediately becomes the prime suspect. It's at this point that In Time, which starts off with at least a bit of promise, becomes nothing more than a run-of-the-mill chase thriller with Will taking a hostage (Amanda Seyfried), the rebellious daughter of one of the area's richest men (Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser).
If you found yourself thinking Timberlake didn't quite pull off his role as the rather nerdish teacher in Bad Teacher, then you're likely to be even more disappointed with his effort to go almost completely serious here. It's not that Timberlake's a bad actor... he's not. In roles like this one, however, Timberlake doesn't get much of a chance to show up the charisma that was so dominant in The Social Network but that has been largely absent from his screen roles ever since. Amanda Seyfried has proven in the past that she can handle drama, but she's so awkwardly bad here that you'd almost swear that Niccol recruited Mila Kunis for the film. It's not surprising that Alex Pettyfer's a weak link here, even given the fact that he's playing his stock role of one of the key baddies, thieves known as "Minutemen," who ludicrously rob people of their minutes. Even Cillian Murphy, usually quite dependable, seems distracted as a "timekeeper," lingo for cop.
Despite an abundance of acting and script issues, the production team actually rises to the challenges with Roger Deakins lensing the film spotlessly and Craig Armstrong's original score managing to capture the right tone even when the actors don't. Alex McDowell's production design does a nice job of capturing the worlds of the "haves" and the "have nots" or, as we might say now, the 1% and the 99%.
It's understandable what attracted folks to this project, both in terms of Niccol's reputation and the film's lofty themes. Unfortunately, In Time seems to spend too much time trying to be market friendly and not enough time remaining faithful to its thought-provoking premise.
I do agree with the basic idea behind In Time... there's nothing more precious than time. For that reason alone, I'll encourage you not to waste yours this weekend and avoid In Time.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic