The thing I loved the most about In Time was the premise. Time is the one thing you can’t buy. It does not matter how wealthy you are, you could have as much time left as the homeless person standing next to you. In Time asks the question ‘what if time was a commodity, like money’. It is such an interesting idea, and the movie is really solid, I’d have preferred a different leading man though. I love Justin Timberlake, but he is a singer first, don’t let anyone tell you different. As it is, In Time is a good film, but I feel like with a solid leading man in tow, it could have been something special.
Timberlake plays Will, a man who has to work day to day to earn enough time so he can make it through the next. In the world they live in, time is a currency. When someone turns 25, a clock starts on their arm, counting down from one year. When that time runs out, so do they. Will wakes up every morning with less than a day to his name, and he has to work in a factory to earn enough ‘time’ to make it through. Will inadvertently becomes the recipient of over 100 years when a man (Matt Bomer) in a bar gives it to him rather than being caught with it. Will does not know where this time is from, but he knows it is probably not going to stay with him for long, so he decides to use it to go where he’s never been. The rich live in a separate part of town, which costs years to even enter, Will decides to travel there with his newfound wealth and try to live in high society until his dodgy time is discovered. While there, he encounters the douche from Mad Men (Vincent Kartheiser) and his hot daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Sylvia and Will get caught up together and end up on the run from a cop (Cillian Murphy) hunting down Will’s newly inherited time. Will doesn’t like the class structure that exists in his world, and wants to help change that, if he can.
This plot is really hard to explain, I hope I’ve done it justice, because it is a really smart story. I really hoped it would be a great film, because this plot where time is money, is a really cool idea. I’ve said before that I don’t think Timberlake is up to it with a film like this. He tries hard, but I just don’t buy him in the role at all. He is the weak link in what is otherwise a really solid cast. Now before everyone starts, I love Justin Timberlake. I love his music and he seems like one of the cooler celebrities out there, but he is not an actor. He’s a musician who acts on the side. The role of Will required someone a little more intense. As it is, In Time is not much more than a generic science fiction action flick.
In Time gets points for being original, but I’d have preferred a stronger leading man, not someone that has acting as a hobby.
On the surface, In Time sounds like a flimsy excuse to assemble a cast of young, attractive actors while sidestepping any criticism for doing so. In this future society everyone stops aging at 25, but there’s a catch– the population is also genetically engineered with a clock in their forearm that starts ticking down from the one year mark as soon as they reach their mid-twenties. It’s a Hollywood dream, getting to cast Olivia Wilde as Justin Timberlake’s mother instead of some haggard 50 year old actress!
In all seriousness, I did find the premise of this movie very intriguing. In Time creates a world where time literally is money, and paints a realistic picture of what this system would look like. The rich can live forever, while the poor struggle to earn enough time just to survive. The system was created in order to keep the working force in line (you can’t afford to strike for better working conditions or pay if you’ll die in the process), but it has the unintended consequence of insuring that nobody really enjoys life. The poor must work long hours and can’t afford the bare necessities, like sleeping eight hours every night; the rich are overly cautious, refusing to participate in any activities that might cause them to die accidentally (simple pleasures, like swimming in the ocean or driving a sports car). It’s a completely sad society, a fact that few of the 1% seem to grasp.
What In Time does well is create a realistic world rich in detail. Things like showing the poor constantly running or jogging, long gloves and sleeves being necessary fashion statements, or the protagonist indulging in a full day of sleep after coming into a century are the small details that make this fictional society believable. These are the sorts of things I look for in sci-fi, and this film certainly delivers in that area.
However, something doesn’t quite click for me. The premise is good. The script isn’t the most sophisticated, but it’s better than most. I think what’s missing is a really good cast. Justin Timberlake is a charismatic guy and a good actor, but he’s underwhelming here. In comedies he’s great, but I feel like he struggles with the drama. Amanda Seyfried also feels like she’s struggling in her role, which is surprising because she’s usually great. It just seems like slightly more veteran actors might have brought something more to the characters and really sold the script.