In Time (2011) Review (PG-13)

In Time is a movie that I enjoyed at face value, but it was hard for me to get past the hokeyness the premise. It’s set in the near future, where currency is no longer measured in dollars, but in time. The people have been genetically engineered so that noone ages past 25 years. The trouble is that after 25 years of age, they’re on the clock so to speak. They only have a year  after that, illustrated with a running counter of digital numbers that appear on their forearms. Anyone’s ticker hitting zero causes that person to die of some sort of coronary. The rich can be virtual immortals as long as they don’t die of an accident or by something to that effect and the poor live day to day trying to get more time. One such person is Will Salas, one of those living day to day three years past the all important 25th birthday. He’s portrayed by former bubblegum pop star Justin ‘Cry Me A River’ Timberlake, but surprisingly (at least to me) he performed admirably as the lead. He was okay in David Fincher’s The Socal Network, also, but I think I was less impressed by that one than most were. In past films that I’ve seen him in, there was far too much of a certain kind of posturing left over from his pop idol days that I didn’t care for. Thankfully, most of that was left behind in this or at least at tolerable levels for someone who wasn’t a fan of his.

Anyway, Will lives with his mother (played by the always effervescent Olivia Wilde), who like everyone else looks 25, even if she’s 50 (cougars probably flourish in this world). The two of them are dangerously close to timing out and share time in order to get by… Okay, I have to stop right, there… See how hokey that sounds? I’ll get to that in a minute. Will’s fortunes change, though, when a very wealthy man turns up  at a local dive that Will frequents. The man is buying drinks for everyone in the house and flaunting how much time that he has, a death wish in this particular neighborhood in this particular world. Will intervenes to try to save the man. He soon finds himself the legitimate owner of the man’s time. I emphasize legitimate, because legitimate or not, the fact that this guy from the ghetto suddenly has been elevated to hobknob with the favored few does not sit well with the powers that be. I won’t give anything else away.

Writer Andrew Niccol has written a few of the more interesting screenplays of the last 15 years with the likes of The Truman Show and Gattaca (2 of my favorites). His stories tend to revolve around a common man trying to  shake off the constraints that an oppressive society/reality has place upon him. Writer Andrew Niccol usually gives the viewer something to ponder. Director Andrew Niccol, however, can be all over the place when it comes to ‘quality’. He can be utterly brilliant, as in his directing debut (Gattaca) or he can make something like S1mOne that… well, it  just didn’t work, so much so, that getting splinters in my eyeballs would have been preferable to watching it again, even if model Rachel Roberts was displaying her  vast hotness throughout as the title character (she makes an appearance in this film, BTW). The quality  level of In Time is probably somewhere in between… maybe a little higher on the Enjoyment Scale. It’s unfortunate that it’s off the charts on the Hokeyness Scale.

As I said, the premise is a little hard to stay behind at times. I get what Niccol is trying to say here, but it doesn’t make sense if you think about it to much. One question after another kept coming up  like how this ‘civilized’ society could have ever gotten to this point. I would think some of those priviliged types would object to having what amounts to your bank roll on your arm. Like a walking billboard asking people to rob you. Or how they came to the number 25 as the point to stop aging (Wait, I know the answer to this one; because it’s a producer’s wet dream to be able to use story as the excuse to not cast anyone that looks over the age of 25). Or what happens to people who run out of time below the age of 25. They need it to buy things obviously. or why it would it would be made so that the time could pass so easily from one person to another. Or why sometimes it seems like they need someone’s permission to pass time, but other times they don’t. I could question a lot of the ideas presented behind the film, also… the apparent worldview of Niccol… but I won’t do that. This has the typical rich guy villain… When he’s being stolen from he talks with that kind of cartoonishness of ‘the man’ who MUST keep the people down ‘for their own good’… when I think the character , if written a little more truthfully, would probably be seeing things as “Hey, this is MY money. You’re STEALING my money (time).” In reality, people generally don’t see themselves as the bad guy even if they really are bad people…. Crap. I’m writing exactly what I said I wouldn’t write. Sorry.

I thought Niccol also made a mistake having the lead character get so close to the ‘zero’ mark so often. It reminded me a little of the number of times that Harrison Ford would cross paths with the police he was running from in The Fugitive. It was handled better in that, though. Will Salas is so close to dying so often that I think  it diminished the precious nature of time as currency. He went to the well too often, but that’s my opinion, maybe you’ll feel differently. The film is ‘fun’. It moves along rather at a decent pace most of the time (lots of running). It’s acted reasonably well. Cillian Murphy turns up as the antagonist, a specialized police officer called a Time Keeper, who is in pursuit of Salas the entire film. I think I’m in the minority, but I think he makes a better protagonist than villain. He never scares me as the villain, and I need villains to scare me as a movie goer.

This was the first film that I’ve seen with Amanda Seyfried. Mr. and Mrs. Assertive  will know her from her role in ‘Mama Mia’, since they are ABBA fans. I, on the other hand, now have an extreme sugar induced headache from mentioning both Mama Mia and ABBA in the same paragraph. Where was I? Oh… Seyfried has all the requirements of the romance/mirror (if you ‘d like to use Screenwriting 101 terms).  She’s cute as a button, being of the waif actress category. Her various physical assets are made full use of in a barely PG-13 sort of way. She’s there for Timberlake’s Salas to be able to state his his thoughts about society to bounce off of her, as well as her sometimes offering up reassurance for him to continue in his quest. She even provided a few laughs filling in for comedy relief.

This is more ‘pop’ than gritty science fiction’, but I didn’t mind that. It’s not as substantive as Niccol’s Gattaca, but I don’t think it was trying to be. I didn’t love it, but I liked it enough to say it’s worth seeing. There’s a little more intelligence here than in most PG-13 mainstream sci-fi outings… Not much, but a little. And there’s still plenty of eye candy abounding when things get too slow. It wouldn’t appear on my ‘Best Of 2011’ list, but I’m not embarrassed for having seen it, either.

3.5 of 5

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2 Responses to “In Time (2011) Review (PG-13)”

  1. Even given what happens to Cillian Murphy’s character in the end, this rates a 3.5? Honestly, that was just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen onscreen outside of a “Jackass” movie. Why didn’t someone question it…? Does no one consult script editors any more…? Or this: Imagine how dull films would be if all the great villains– Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter, Frank in “Once Upon a Time in the West”– succumbed to similar fates. One big *Oops*, and it’s time to roll the end credits….

    • Crash! Landen Says:

      SPOILERS: YOU’VE BEEN WARNED… Yes and I wasn’t bothered by the inevitable fate for the Time Keeper as you were. There were many things wrong with the story (a lot of it just coming out of the premise), but the Time keeper’s fate made sense to me scriptwise. He was written not as a bad guy, but very much like the police detective brother in Gattaca (Niccol’s directing debut). He represents the system that Will Salas is fighting against. I think the point of his fate was that he’s doomed by the very system that he believes in. While Will (a name that wasn’t chosen at random, I’m sure) seeks freedom, Murphy’s character seeks to ensure a continuation of the system. He’s obsessed with it and I think just like in Gattaca, here is a character that failed in rising above his status (he even says so near the end) and doesn’t want anyone else succeeding where he failed. Envy.

      The way it ends, Will Salas retains the moral high ground (even if he’s robbing banks, which was the real mistake IMO). He isn’t a murderer. He’s basically the ‘everyman’ resisting the constraints of an oppressive society. The only time he kills anyone is when he’s being held at gunpoint (along with his girl) awaiting eventual execution by thugs. The movie is a little confused… a little muddled… but it is about something more than just a typically worthless entertainment where the audience is supposed to get a vicarious thrill with the ‘good guy’ blowing away the ‘bad guy’ in super slo-mo. For me, that would have been the stupid-er ending. As I also said about the movie itself, I didn’t love the ending, but I still liked it. And I can site a number of GREAT films where the bad guy… well, again…

      SPOILERS: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones does not defeat the Nazis… Children Of Men… Bad guys chasing good guy the entire film are not killed by good guy. No Country For Old Men. I don’t think I need to go any further with that. Chinatown…Ditto… How about in David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone?

      Anyway… if the Time Keeper’s last scene was the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen onscreen, then you’ve never checked out all of the films on my ‘Worst Lists’. How about in Jaws 4 when a shark seeks revenge on the wife who possesses the memories (even though she wasn’t present to have witnessed them) of her husband that killed other Great White sharks in the past Jaws films, realizes that she’s fleeing to a Caribbean island, swims ahead of the plane and attacks the plane as it lands thousands of miles away? Really? How about that falling on the stool sequence in that ‘Oscar winner’ Million Dollar Baby? Really? REALLY?!

      But, maybe we just have a difference of opinion on at least this particular movie.

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