The beauty of sci-fi as a genre is that it allows us to shift everyday events or issues into fantastical situations and safely explore them in the land of make-believe.
The new movie “In Time” succeeds in doing this to a point, but it gets lost in the rush and forgets to give the audience an anchor to hold on to for the 110-minute ride.
Time is money in this movie’s world. Set in an alternate futuristic reality, everyone stops physically aging at 25, but any time alive after that has literally become the new worldwide currency.
Everyone is born with a digital clock embedded into their arms. The clock acts exactly as a bank account balance, but without any of the overdraft charges – once the clock hits zero, you’re dead. You have to work for every second you want to stay alive.
The rich can live forever and the poor struggle to stay alive for the next five minutes.
This is a fresh and exciting concept with plenty to say about our youth-obsessed, money-driven society, but it also sparks a timelier issue. Wealth is distributed unevenly in the movie’s world, with the rich stockpiling millions of years of life while sparsely handing out days for the poor to live out. Does this sound familiar?
Will (Justin Timberlake) is a poor 28-year-old with only about a year to his name when he inherits more than a century from a wealthy man (Matt Bomer) who becomes disillusioned with the immortal and corrupt upper class – leading him to suicide.
Will, accused of murdering the man, is put on the run by the corrupt police force and ends up taking a wealthy heiress (Amanda Seyfried) hostage. The two eventually become Bonnie and Clyde-type bank robbers, stealing years from the rich and giving them to the poor.
This is a movie fueled by ideas and is not meant to be character-driven, but it’s hard to gain any sort of investment in what’s happening on screen when you feel indifferent about what happens to the protagonist.
Timberlake has his charms, but as a lead actor, it’s a struggle for him to break from his public persona and delve into his role. It’s hard to take the movie seriously when Timberlake is struggling to take himself seriously as an actor. He plays everything a little too cool, removing any sort of urgency from his performance.
Doe-eyed Seyfried surprisingly provides a healthy dose of comic relief as a rich girl hostage turned partner-in-crime. Her personality shines through, but she isn’t given much to do besides hide behind Timberlake and occasionally wield a gun.
The villains steal the show with Vincent Kartheiser as Seyfried’s greedy father and Cillian Murphy as a morally conflicted cop. Both actors bring wonderful nuance to their characters who may look 25, but are well past senior-citizen status.
Director Andrew Niccol is definitely pulling from the same hat as his 1997 cult classic “Gattaca.” This is far from a bad thing. The films share similar retro-futuristic visual looks, but “In Time” just comes out looking like a pale shadow of that earlier film. It lacks the emotional intensity and scope that makes “Gattaca” still resonate with audiences more than a decade later. This movie just plays out like its hyperactive little brother.