MOVIE REVIEW: In Time
IN TIME-- 4 STARS
Justin Timberlake was recently on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and was jokingly asked to describe the premise his new film In Time. When Fallon started out he suggested that he and Amanda Seyfried are basically trying to get more time. That brought a nod, a laugh, and a "That's it" from Timberlake. When pressed for more, with a sardonic grin, he begins to list adjectives like "cerebral," "dystopian," "weird," and "fantastical." Jokes aside, In Time touches all four of those science fiction bases for sure and pretty successfully, for that matter.
The "dystopian" comes in the form of the not-to-distant future writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show) has created where muscle cars are electric works of art and scientists have found a way to turn off the aging gene. On the "fantastical" side, the government, in order to prevent overpopulation due to seemingly guaranteed immortality, establishes that everyone in the world will physically age until the age of 25 and then has one more year to live unless they literally add, earn, or buy time. For the "cerebral," that makes time the new currency of the world and those limitations are visually interpreted by a glowing green digital countdown clock embedded in everyone's left forearm. To add more "weird" to that, because of the lack of aging, everyone looks gloriously in their mid-20's prime, from son all the way to grandma.
Are you a little lost? Don't be. The high concept science-fiction played out in In Time is as uniquely original, stylish, challenging, and enthralling as it is preposterous. If you could handle Niccol's genetics from Gattaca and reality television from The Truman Show, this one is easy and far more exciting. If you liked the bends in science taken by The Matrix, Inception, or even this year's brilliant Source Code, you'll be fine. Those who buy-in will be glad they made time for In Time.
Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a "ghetto" factory worker who lives day-to-day with time the same way we live paycheck-to-paycheck in our world. He's single and lives with his mother, played by Olivia Wilde (See, everyone's the same looking in age). He and his buddy Borel (Johnny Galecki of Big Bang Theory) dodge gangs of "minuteman" like Fortis (Alex Pettyfer from I Am Number Four) who will mug and kill you for minutes, essentially "cleaning your clock." In running into Fortis, he rescues a 105-year-old mystery man (Matt Bomer from TV's White Collar) who's got more than a century still on his clock. This man gifts Will his time, enabling him the future and mortality he never dreamed of.
Like all of Niccol's science-fiction films (as well as his true story Lord of War from 2005), there's always room for societal and political issues and statements. See, the L.A.-looking "Dayton" ghetto that Will lives is just one of many "time zones" that divide the social caste system of the rich and poor in this future setting. Will's new century of currency gives him a "borrowed ladder" several time zones up into "New Greenwich," where centuries and eons make you this world's version of billionaires. There, he meets Sylvia Weis (Seyfried), daughter to a powerful businessman (Vincent Kartheiser), adorned with the kind of eyes that should be labeled as "trouble." The real trouble is that Will is essentially on the run from Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) and the "Timekeepers" (their version of cops) who think his century of currency was stolen and not gifted.
Wow. That's a lot of air quotes for one movie review. High-concept science-fiction movies that reinvent everything about real life will do that. Air quotes overload or not, In Time works. It's interesting, cool, fast-paced, and sharply made. Where some movies try a bold sci-fi idea only half-heartedly by just teasing a cool idea superficially, In Time immerses the audiences in all the details and doesn't waver. Amanda Seyfried isn't going to win any Academy Awards anytime soon (and probably not an MTV Movie Award either), but Justin Timberlake carries this well. He's 3-for-3 this year after Bad Teacher and Friends With Benefits. The coolness outweighs the preposterous.
LESSON #1: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST-- During the movie, Vincent Kartheiser's heavy drops a quote saying "for anyone to be immortal, many must die." While self-serving to his character, he brings up a good point that is layered in the old adage of "survival of the fittest." While he poetically means that immortality only exists with the inevitability of death, it's really an allegory to how the rich are only made rich by the existence of poverty.
LESSON #2: TIME IS MONEY. NO WAIT. MONEY IS TIME?!-- Oh crap, I'm confused...
LESSON #3: TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS-- Well, after the confusion of Lesson #2, let's get back on track. In a world where the only currency is the minutes and seconds of your life expectancy, you will learn a great deal of initiative, efficiency, and other time management skills. Instead of living paycheck-to-paycheck, you would live minute-to-minute. Run instead of walk. Cut to the chase in conversations. Hork down every meal. Work instead of sleep. Hurry up, the clock is ticking... literally!
LESSON #4: LIVE EVERY MOMENT LIKE IT'S YOUR LAST-- Plenty of greeting cards, inspirational songs, and motivational posters remind us to live every day and every moment as if it's your last, but how many of us really do it? That notion also brings up the classic open-ended question of what would you do if you only had one day to live? Try only having one hour, ten minutes, or mere seconds to live. In addition, unlike the real world, where we don't know when the end will come, our In Time characters are constantly motivated by the ticking clock on their forearm. That would definitely force the issue to value every second you have in the land of the living.