By Scott Elliott
October 28, 2011
How much time does one have? This is a question that interests many of us. If someone dies young we say, “They went before their time.” If someone lives to be 100 we may say, “It was their time to go.” Many of us exercise, eat healthier, take herbal supplements, etc., just so we will have more time. The movie In Time takes this desire to its extreme and imagines an environment where people buy and sell time.
The premise of this movie may be the best thing about it, an intriguing story that hooks you from the beginning. In the future people are genetically modified to only age to 25 years. Anything after the 25-year mark is time that is borrowed, inherited, stolen or earned. Time also acts as the currency. If you want a cup of coffee or want to ride the bus, it will cost you time. The country has been divided into highly guarded sections called time zones. People clock out (die) every day in the slums. It is a way of life, and neither the people nor the time keepers (police) seem to care. In the wealthy time zone people have accumulated hundreds and even thousands of years. They move slower and take in all of life, because they have plenty of time.
The movie follows Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who lives in the slums with his mom, played by Olivia Wilde. Since no one ages past 25, it is difficult to tell if someone is a mother, wife or daughter. Will is given a large amount of time by a 100-year-old man who no longer wants to live. At first this seems like a wonderful gift, but Will is quickly burdened by the gift and finds himself on the run from the law. Along the way he meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a wealthy businessman, played by Vincent Kartheiser. For the last half of the movie, Will and Sylvia are trying to stay one step ahead of the time keepers.
The cast of the film includes some of the finest young actors and actresses in Hollywood. Timberlakeʼs part is not as strong as his performance in last yearʼs The Social Network, but he proves he can handle a leading role in a big-budget film. Seyfried and Wilde also shine. But the two people who outperform everyone else are not even the biggest names: Kartheiser and Cillian Murphy are superb as the villains and do an incredible job of playing characters who are much older than their appearance.
In Time was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote and directed Gattaca, one of the best science-fiction movies of the last 25 years. Sci-fi is an interesting genre because it allows one to uniquely explore philosophical, theological and ethical ideas. Whether you are dealing with dualism (good vs. evil), the question of “what is reality” or the ethics of eugenics, the science-fiction genre offers a writer and director a large canvas to work with. One of the problems with In Time is that it is more influenced by present political events (like the financial meltdown currently driving Occupy Wall Street, etc.) than these deeper philosophical and ethical issues.
In Time has a superb cast and a good premise, but somewhere along the way it comes up short. The villains keep the movie interesting, but the main characters become drab and the storyline predictable after the first half. As a fan of both Niccol and Timberlake, I really wanted to enjoy this movie, but there was something lacking. If you are looking for a somewhat entertaining movie with a moral message (SPOILER: Darwinian Capitalism is bad), then you may enjoy In Time. However, if you want to watch a science-fiction movie that stands the tests of time, stay home and check out Gattaca.
Scott Elliott is a minister living in La Grange, TX, with his wifeand son. He graduated from Oklahoma State University and is nowattending Austin Graduate School of Theology.