In Time

I know. A New Hope is next. Just need a bit more time to type down some points about it that aren’t utterly trite. Anyway, I’ve actually managed to see a brand spanking new film, rather than a two-week old, everyone-who-was-going-to-see-it-already-has one.

In Time (2011)
I hate to say it, but In Time actually does seem rather timely. For a film about holding up a mirror to the gulf between rich and poor to be released whilst the #OccupyWallStreet movement is still going on is a stroke of luck that the filmmakers couldn’t have possibly have planned for. Having said that if they did plan it and all this 99% stuff turns out to be an elaborate viral marketing stunt for In Time, my faith in humanity will sink to an all-time low.
“You can’t hide 100 years in the ghetto.”

It’s sometime in the future and everyone stops ageing at 25. However, people are born with digital timers in their forearms that counts down their lives. Time really is money, so people like blue collar workin’ man Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) have to graft hard to get another few days on the clock and have the privilege of living for that little bit longer. When Will is gifted over a century by a suicidal man, he endeavours not to waste the man’s time and change his destiny. The concept here is awesome. Not only is it a fantastically easy and effective way to create tension, but it also make a valid, if heavy-handed, point about the class divides. I’ve read a lot of criticism about Justin Timberlake, but I thought he was solid as the lead. I don’t have a problem with the guy. I think he was good in The Social Network and he’s decent here. I can’t help but feel it might be his N*Sync roots that people may be objecting to. Amanda Seyfried was okay, but didn’t impress me nearly as much as she did in Chloe. I thought Cillian Murphy was wasted as Timekeeper Raymond Leon. The guy’s a fantastic presence, but was rather ineffectual here, the problems just coming down to lazy characterisation. Alex Pettyfer makes a surprise appearance as a scumbag thief, but doesn’t really do anything more than add some variety to his acting C.V.

So yeah, that concept. It’s a terrifying thought to have to run down to your last hour or two just to pay the gas bill. It’s chilling that “timing out” is so common that people are just used to seeing corpses lying in the street. There’s one genuinely affecting scene where Will and Sylvia talk about feeling the timer start when they turned 25. It’s really interesting to see that fast pace that people in the ghetto move compared to the lax, luxurious pace the rich and powerful do. It’s certainly effective in making you wish for some kind of fiery retribution on the 1% who have centuries to play with. The time as currency idea does lead to infrequent confusing lines of dialogue however, such as when a prostitute propositions Leon: “I’ll give you ten minutes for an hour.”
The film is written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who some of you may know as the writer (and occasional director) of films like Gattaca, The Truman Show and Lord of War. Now, apart from the Niccol connection, what else do these films have in common? Yep, they’re as subtle as a tiger in a hen house. They all have DAMN SERIOUS MESSAGES to convey, but are always in-your-face and border on the preachy. That’s not to say that the messages aren’t important- in fact I wish more films would talk about overpopulation and the like, I’m just saying that sometimes I feel he’d be happier doing angry PowerPoint presentations instead of making populist entertainment.

The film is good ‘n angry for the first half,  but then slowly starts to unravel before coming to a shuddering, uninspired end (much like my style of lovemaking*). It goes for a rather overdone Bonnie and Clyde/Robin Hood strand that doesn’t particularly work. I actually felt my heart sink a bit when they first decided to rob a “time bank”. I’d been really enjoying it up until that point and to go for the “rob from the rich” angle seemed a real step down. Also, the fact that you can steal someone’s time just by gripping their wrist is ridiculous. They have the technology to implant accurate LED timers into someone’s arm, but there’s no safeguard? Not even something as high-tech as a fucking bracelet? Weird. Apparently, you can rob a bank simply by driving a massive truck into it. Good to know.
“You put enough time in the wrong hands, you upset the system.”

In Time is pretty good. The concept is great and the points the film is so eager to hammer home couldn’t be more relevant if it tried. It’s a shame that the film’s wheels start to fall off once the pair decide to embark on a life of crime. Handled well, this could have been the perfect, angsty, cinematic time capsule for the right now. As it stands, it’s a slightly better than average movie with some great ideas and wasted potential.

*I know I’ve made this hee-larious joke before, but I couldn’t resist making it again. If it helps, think of it as an homage to my now fuckin’ classic Drive review.

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