“In Time” Movie Review

     At first glance, Andrew Niccol’s new film “In Time” seems to have a striking resemblance to one of my favorite Sci-Fi films “Logan’s Run.”  In many ways, “In Time” does seem to pay homage to that classic, but ultimately the film stands on its own, thanks to an original and very preposterous premise.  You might remember Andrew Niccol was the writer/director of another intelligent Sci-Fi film called “Gattaca.”  In that film, society found a way to ensure all people are born without any genetic defects.  The film takes place in a time where there are still people who were born naturally and they are relegated to holding labor intensive jobs, such as a janitor.  It is those who are genetically perfect that are qualified to pilot space craft and go to the moon.  “In Time” features another premise in which we have found a way to alter our genetics, but this time it’s for different reasons.

     In the not too distant future, society has altered our genetics to cease the aging process at 25 years of age.  At that time, you physically stop aging but there is a catch.  You are given one year to live via a green digital countdown clock that appears on your left forearm.  This means many of the film’s characters are over one hundred years old, yet they still appear to be 25.  As is the case with our current method of currency, time is money.  The rich can buy hundreds of years and basically make themselves immortal.  The poor live dangerously close to their time expiring everyday.  They work and they are paid in time, a couple days here and a couple days there.  Kind of like living paycheck to paycheck, but in this case when you run out of time, your dead.

     I had mentioned this society altered the population’s genetics for different reasons than was done in the film “Gattaca.”  In the life of the poor, everything costs some of their time and the going rate continues to climb.  In other words, it seems as if the system is a form of population control.  Whereas a bus ride might have cost 2 hours of time last week, this week it costs 4 hours of time.  Imagine if your counting on meeting with your son so he can give you some of the time he earned at work, but with only 1 hour left on your clock, you don’t have enough to ride the bus and get home in a timely manner.  When that happens to one of the film’s characters, you truly begin to understand as an audience member what the people who populate this film are going through and just how high the stakes are.

     The story follows Will Salas, played by Justin Timberlake, who spends his days scraping by with little time left.  His job keeps cutting his time wages and his 50 year old mother , Rachel played by Olivia Wilde, depends on him as much as he depends on her.  It should be mentioned that when two people hold each others arm, willingly or unwillingly, they can transfer time back and forth from one another.  When your in a ghetto like Will lives in, you wouldn’t want to flash your time just as you wouldn’t want to flash money in real life since you could be robbed.  The key plot device in this film has Wil helping a stranger in a bar, who has over one hundred years on his clock, avoid being robbed.  This leads to the man, who is tired of living after 105 years, giving Wil all of his time.

     This allows Wil to immediately move up in class (remember, the rich have all the time in this story) and he ends up mingling with the daughter of the man who controls the system.  As played by Amanda Seyfried, Sylvia Weis doesn’t seem to buy into her father’s ways and before we know it, Wil and Sylvia are on the run.  Chasing them are the cops of the future known as the Minute Men.  Their mission is to ensure time is never in the wrong hands, thereby protecting the system.  Unfortunately, once you get past the premise of the film, your not left with much.  The third act is nothing more than an average action film with car and foot chases, but nothing much in the way of substance.  Once the gimmick wears off, your really left with nothing but a hollow romance between the Seyfried and Timberlake characters.  I was also disappointed with the production design.  I would have to figure that in order for everyone to live this way, the population that was not born genetically altered would have to have died off.  For this to happen, the film would need to take place at least 80-100 years in the future, yet the cityscapes, the cars, and the day to day life appears to be that of 2011.  Nothing in this film feels like the future.  In other words, they have figured out all of these major breakthroughs in genetics, but the cars still look like 80’s gas guzzlers?

     Essentially, I believe Niccol has taken a story right out of the headlines of today.  You could easily have made the same film present day by just taking out the time is money and genetic altering premise.  Like the present, the rich have it made and the poor barely make it.  Apparently, even with this future society’s attempts to make life better, they still failed because they didn’t consider the one thing that comes with human nature no matter what.  Greed.  GRADE: C