IN TIME Review
Andrew Niccol has built a career around conceiving smart ideas which are then realized to wildly varying degrees onscreen. He arrived in Hollywood with a splash, receiving an Oscar nomination first time out for his screenplay for THE TRUMAN SHOW. The story of a man who's life plays out unwittingly on television before a captivated global audience was enthusiastically received pretty much everywhere and awarded Niccol the opportunity to write and direct his first feature, GATTACA. This highly-praised piece of Huxley-inspired science fiction proved Niccol could produce intelligent, good-looking futuristic thrills on a relatively meagre budget. Since then, however, Niccol has struggled to recapture this kind of critical success, although the smart money would be on his next project, the big screen adaptation of Stephenie "TWILIGHT" Meyers' alien invasion novel THE HOST, making a bob or two when it arrives next year.
In the meantime we have IN TIME, a sci-fi chase thriller set in a future where nobody ages physically past the age of 25, and at which point individuals are given one more year to live. Time has become the new currency and you are worth only as much as the time you have left to live, which is conveniently displayed on a digital clock embedded in your left arm. The underclass lives literally one day at a time, scraping together a few more hours however they can, while those privileged enough to "come from time", wile away their lives in the lap of luxury, with only the fear of a freak accident or random act of violence coming between them and immortality.
It is a fascinating world that Niccol has created, where someone living on the breadline could actually "time out" and die if they miss their bus and are late for an appointment, while for the elite set, a badly played hand of poker could see decades disappear off their life in an instant. In a world where time literally is money your wealth can be judged solely by how fast you are moving. Those with time on their hands are never in a hurry to get anywhere.
Will Salas (JustinTimberlake) is 25 +3, lives in the ghettos with his mother, played by Olivia Wilde in an amusing bit of casting, and works a factory line for a few hours in payment. He crosses paths with the drunk and suicidal Hamilton (Matt Bomer), from the wealthy New Greenwich, who at the age of 105 is sick of life and looking to unload a century of time before letting himself die gracefully. Hamilton attracts the attention of local gangster Fortis (a delightfully sleazy Alex Pettyfer) and will be lucky to survive the night. Will helps him escape only to wake the next morning and find Hamilton dead and his 100 years added to Will's own clock. Now the prime suspect in the man's death, Will has both Fortis and Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) on his tail, and left with no choice but to leave his time zone and head to New Greenwich, to clear his name and see just how the other half lives.
Timberlake makes for a likable, if somewhat lightweight, lead and certainly seems more at home once Will hits the affluent utopia of New Greenwich and learns to embrace his newfound wealth. The lad sure knows how to wear a suit and looks right at home behind the wheel of a vintage automobile, but when he starts swinging punches and cracking off rounds he begins to look somewhat out of place. The plot shifts in the second half from being a LOGAN'S RUN style societal examination to a Robin Hood tale of crusading class warriors. After crossing paths with the all-powerful Philippe Weis (MAD MEN's Vincent Karthesier), Will is soon cornered and escapes only by taking Weis' daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) hostage. Needless to say after a few crossed words they hit it off and get it on, with Sylvia's dormant rebellious streak erupting to the surface in surprisingly volatile fashion.
Seyfried does stuck up and bolshy almost as well as she does rebellious and trigger-happy and while her volte face from one to the other might happen somewhat quickly, its inevitability helps quash any major quibbles. It also helps that she looks rather good in heels, haute couture and a handgun, giving the cyber chic look a healthy dose of vintage glamour in the process. And right here we get to the crux of what is wrong with IN TIME. For all its smart observations and pacy action, the whole thing feels a little too much like a Backstreet Boys video. Somewhere along the way, being 25 became synonymous with being absolutely knockout gorgeous. Everyone in this film is not only young, but also beautiful. Seriously, this film's interpretation of a drunken deadbeat is Johnny Galecki from THE BIG BANG THEORY with three-day stubble. Homeless deadbeats haven't looked this good since Will Ferrell's "Derelict" fashion show in ZOOLANDER.
That said, IN TIME has enough going for it to let these criticisms slide, for the most part. My expectations were low going in and for a good hour Niccols' intriguing premise and the young, attractive cast kept me well entertained. Things do unravel in the final third and plotholes begin to widen, but by that stage the story has gained enough momentum to at least reach its close without provoking too much nitpicking. Once it's all over, the ending will most likely reveal itself as nonsense but there can be no denying that for much of its running time IN TIME should occupy yours pretty well.
IN TIME opens in Hong Kong today and in the USA tomorrow.