In the future humans stop aging at 25. They have one more year to live unless they can refill the clock on their arms with more minutes, hours, or years. Jobs pay time; things cost time. In the future, time literally is money, and when you’re broke, you die. That’s the premise of the the newest Justin Timberlake vehicle, In Time. My expectations were sky high for Andrew Niccol’s return to the sci-fi genre after the superb Gattaca. Unfortunately, all we get this time is a poor-man’s MTV version of his previous opus, if that poor man had no money at all to his name. I’m all over the place again; let me be concise, since time is life now: In Time=awful.
JT plays Will Salas, who lives literally day to day in a future ghetto. Now, I understand it’s the poor part of town because I am told so; honestly, I don’t think the filmmakers have ever seen an actual housing project. This one features broad, clean boulevards and no discernible street crime. Also, everyone is beautiful. That’s actually a recurring theme in the entire film; there are no ugly people in the future. I guess they discovered immortality-tech after eugenics-ing fat people away. Anyway, life is tough for Will Salas, and his hot-25-year-old-looking-mother, played by Olivia Wilde. They both work menial, low-paying jobs, and don’t seem to ever have more than a few hours left on their arms.
Everything changes when Will meets a rich man with over 100 years on his arm named Henry Hamilton (TV’s Matt Bomer). Hamilton is tired of being handsome and rich and living forever because…well, life is a burden, bro. So he decides to gift all his remaining years to Will, and then commit emo-cide. Soon after, Will’s mom dies because life is unfair, and Salas waves his fist in the air, yelling “Kahnnnnn!!!!” No, just kidding. He does swear to take it to the man, and break the horribly unfair system by crashing into the rich part of town. The city is divided into different time zones, and migrating around is tough since it costs money to change zones, so the rich people all live here, and the poor people all live there etc. This aspect of the theme was mildly interesting, as everyone always runs in the poorer areas, where time is at a premium, but rich people walk leisurely, and take their damn time. Though everyone in the film looks like this; so I guess rich people must do cardio at some point too…
The rest of the movie is sure to make the kids happy since it showcases hip stylez and even better looking people, with even less thematic content. I won’t go into more plot details because I have been told I spoil stuff too much, but just broad strokes: Will teams up with a hot chick (Amanda Seyfried, who will always be little Karen Smith from Mean Girls to me) and goes Bonnie and Clyde/Robin Hood on the rich people, stealing time from banks and the affluent and giving it to the poor. They are constantly hounded by the time keepers, who are sort of time policemen, led by Detective-like person Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), whose aims and ideology are imperceptible, and somehow also contradictory, and in the end mean nothing anyway.
The film’s antagonist is supposed to be hyper-rich man, and maybe president of the city, Philippe Weis (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser), but, honestly, he’s the most likable character onscreen. Weis is more than civil to Will when they first meet; and later on displays genuine concern over his daughter’s kidnapping. He is presented as evil just by being wealthy and immortal and not sharing his infinite life with other people. Oh yea, the metaphor is that shallow. Is it even a metaphor? It’s just sort of literal. I’m way liberal myself, but even I found the sophomoric socialist stuff distasteful.
The one aspect of ageless immortality that is barely adequately explored is how no one ages. The film’s first scene shows Will approach an attractive lady, and seemingly go in for a kiss on the lips, which then switches to a peck on the cheek. We then find out the woman is his mother. Weis later jokes with Salas asking him whether that attractive lady over there is his daughter, mother, or wife. I won’t spoil the surprise, but anyway, Oedipus would love the future.
Visually, the film is…interesting I guess (sigh). It employs the same ageless aesthetic as Niccol’s previous work Gattaca. It seems less a future, and maybe more an alternate reality. Everything in the city is slick and modern and zen, but Weis’ seaside villa alludes to the riviera. The one in France, not in Las Vegas across from Circus Circus. The cars and clothing also exhibit a blend of classic themes interpreted through modern veneers. The music is non-descript and I don’t even know if it had music, really. I’m just glad they didn’t slap some techno over the dialogue like in 80% of all sci-fi, because it’s the future, so music must be electronic.
JT isn’t bad in his role; he’s really a pretty good actor in general, I think. Amanda Seyfried is great as Sylvia Weis, Philippe’s daughter. Her haughty, presumptuous attitude quickly evaporates once she is torn from the comforts of the upper crust. However, after she conquers her initial fears, Sylvia’s childish energy fills the screen with merriment. She is quite charming, even while shooting a gun. Cillian Murphy is awful, as he always is, but in all fairness this time around he was handed the most poorly constructed character in modern cinema. The “climax” where detective-like Leon faces down against Salas is ridiculous. You will know what I mean, if you end up disregarding my advice and watching this bad movie.
Basically, we are handed an interesting sci-fi concept that is never explored adequately. Agelessness and immortality is such a loaded theme; 2 hours should be more than enough time to explore any of the myriad social implications. Instead, we’re given 100 minutes of car chases, gun shots, and Wall Street attack ads. And what’s up with the awkward arm wrestling stuff? Everyone keeps mentioning “fights” throughout the film, and I’m expecting some crazy future immortality cage fighting…it ends up being awkward arm-wrestling. Skip In Time; it’s bad.