IN TIME (2011) / Science fiction-Thriller

Running Length: 109 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and strong language.

Cast: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer, Vincent Kartheiser, Johnny Galecki
Director: Andrew Niccol
Producer: Andrew Niccol, Marc Abraham, Amy Israel, Kristel Laiblin, Eric Newman
Screenplay: Andrew Niccol

The concept for In Time, the new film from writer-director Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show), is interesting, but the way in which it is executed is dreadful. This is one of those movies that you go to watch more for style rather than substance, but rarely does it have either.

Our hero is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network), a factory worker who lives in a future where the world uses time as a form of currency. When your times runs out, you go plop. Kinda like that Bruce Willis vehicle Surrogates. Salas lives at home with his mother and wants nothing more than to be a clichéd human being in every movie ever. So, one night Salas happens across a stranger (Matthew Bomer, USA’s “White Collar”) in one of the local bars. The man seems to be out of place, for it’s apparent that he’s very wealthy. See, in this future, the rich and the poor are seperated by “time zones”. The richer you are, the nicer the area you live in is. Simple enough, right?

Well, a couple of hoodlums notice this as well and pick a fight with the man, claiming that they are entitled to his time as much as he is. A chase ensues, with Salas helping the man out of the bar and through the streets to an abandoned building, where the man explains that his reason for being in this time zone is because he longer appreciates being immortal. So much wealth makes you not appreciate the small things in life and eventually, you just want to go away. This is about as sentimental as In Time gets.

The morning after, Salas awakens to discover that his “time balance” has been tremendously increased. Stupefied, he gets up and races to the window just in time to see the man kill himself by jumping from a bridge. Now, with this large amount of time on his hands, Salas travels to the highest time zone, attracting the attention of the locals, including the daughter (Amanda Seyfried) of a “millenium”-aire (Haha!). The two quickly develop a romantic attraction for one another, but their relationship is put on hold with the arrival of the Timekeepers, who suspect Salas of murder. But before they can arrest him, Salas and the girl elope. Mayhem ensues.

What In Time doesn’t understand is that people don’t enjoy seeing the same thing over and over again and especially not if it’s done poorly. (Well, at least I don’t.) Normally, I’m fine with a little predictability, but In Time is so bad in everything else that it does that it just can’t be forgiven. Seriously, guys — this one is stagnant.

There are problems with both the editing and visual effects. The pacing is even, but continuity is consistently off and the visual effects simply aren’t very believable. (To cite an example, there’s an image of car rolling down a hill that almost resembles stop-motion animation.)

As well as having technical problems, In Time suffers from formulaic plotting, all-around cheesy dialogue, and so many time-related puns that you’d need a to make a tally chart in order to keep track of them. Timberlake and Seyfried each give good performances, but they’re only as good as the script will allow them to be. Cillian Murphy smirks a whole lot and overacts, but given these one-dimensional characters, there’s not a whole lot that these actors can do to impress us.

It’s all a startling disappointment for Andrew Niccol, whose career takes a slight dip downwards. His Lord of War and Gattaca were both fascinating motion pictures, so what went wrong here? Normally in a situation like this, I’d blame the writer for the film’s badness, as that’s where a lot of the problems stem from. But seeing as Niccol was involved in the writing as well, what else am to do?

There is some good news to be had though. During the final ten minutes or so, I’ve never laughed so hard in my entire life. Ever. Who cares if I wasn’t meant to laugh? It’s the most emotion I showed the entire time, and that’s saying something. So unless you’re looking for some mindless Friday night cheese to poke fun at, don’t go see In Time. Don’t even go see it if there’s nothing else playing at the theater that strikes your interest. Go do something else. Live your life. Is it really as bad as I’m making it out to be? Oh, you betcha.

Final rating: ★ 1/2 (out of ★★★★)

© 2011 Stephen Earnest

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