When I first heard the premise of Justin Timberlake taking a lead in Andrew Niccol’s new Sci-Fi Thriller In Time, I immediately thought this sounds like Logan’s Run with a Pop Star. Driving to the preview showing I was then confronted by a publicity poster on the back of a bus that looked like a mash-up of Tron and Water for Elephants which initiated an emotional tangent or two but what was I truly in for? The trailer had given great premise for the story which is always a key strength of an Andrew Niccol production so would the movie itself live up to expectations.
As a fan of his works in The Truman Show (writer) and The Terminal (writer/director) the New Zealand born Niccol has mesmerised International audiences with his ability to challenge societal values through connected story telling. While Gattaca was his first release it wasn’t his first feature story as The Truman Show took so long to come to production primarily because of sourcing Peter Weir and Jim Carey. His first public release was never the less the Sci-Fi flic Gattaca which took Ethan Hawke and future wife Uma Thurman into the world of genetic engineering with a younger Jude Law. This is definitely worth watching again or maybe for the first time. On a side note watch for a possible remake of this one.
“Hollywood’s only allegiance these days is to money. If they think there’s cash to be made by making films with a conscience, then you might see a revival of that kind of film-making. Otherwise, forget it.” – Andrew Niccol
When you hear quotes like this from Niccol, you have a perspective on what he is trying to achieve and deliver to customers through the Hollywood sausage machines. So if Hollywood has an allegiance to money then what is that value actually mean to you and I? In a not too distant future Niccol suggests through In Time a world where genetic engineering means you don’t age past 25. Look in the mirror, like what you see? This is what you’re left with for as long as you have credit. And in this environment the credit for every transaction from taxes and loan repayments through to a bus ride are all paid in ‘time’.
Once you kick over your 25th year like Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) you have a year’s time credit and if you want to keep on living then you need to earn more time anyway possible. Joining Daddy’s role at the factory could be the inheritance you’ve wished for. Hard working blue collar works get 24hrs of credit for a day’s production if they meet every increasing quotas while four ‘time-zones’ away the white collar elite like Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) live on Daddy’s money. A gap year here is talked about as taking a ‘decade’ to party. The economists give way to the ‘Capitalists of Time’ who play on a global scale creating the capitalist environment of haves and have-nots. This sets up a story where the phrase ‘Got a minute’ can have life and death consequences. Walk in Henry Hamilton, a supposed ‘Immortal’ with 1000s of years in credit who doesn’t feel the need to keep living and wanders into the ghetto flitting away time to the those with minutes to spare on a forgettable drink before he gives away his last 100 years to someone who ‘wouldn’t waste it’.
The backdrop of the story is laced with metaphorical nuances that address our values from time for pleasure and work through to possessions and family. All can be bought and earned. From the ghetto life we see the pitch of the “99 second” stores through to the toll gate to riches that can cost you a ‘year’ of time. When the real push of this Robin Hood story approaches its crescendo we’re playing for big bucks and a Million Years of time doesn’t seem enough to change the balance of power. The story is paced by each human’s matrix green time clock running up their forearm. Allegiances are bought and sold and family members can be those we die for or those we live to destroy. Time comes and goes in mere seconds and the ups and downs of a life worth living or acquired through ill-gotten gain keep the characters in a heady momentum.
When the poor become desperate they can approach a time pawn shop as a hope against the ‘Minutemen’; the Swindlers and Thieves willing to pray on those near death. If they succeed the poor are granted relief from this world while those who survive to chase the cheese another day are trying to avoid the Timekeepers. These are Police, the supposed keepers of justice making sure that every man has his day or minute and only as much as he deserves. A challenge thrown through the script is the quote; “For a few to be immortal many must die.”
Be prepared to be disturbed by one key aspect of the movie. If we all stop aging at 25 then what would your 60year-old mother-in-law look like? If you’re introduced to a mother and daughter then how do deduce the roles and engagement of a relationship? It brings a whole new game to “whos who in the zoo”. This brings another interesting side discussion to the movie when the cast of mid thirty aged actors are playing 25year-olds on screen. Mad Man, Vincent Kartheiser (32yo) is typical of this decision with a hairline most 25 year-olds would run from. He plays ‘distinguished’ well but some characters were a distraction from the supposed storyline. An aging more rugged Cillian Murphy (35yo) plays the timekeeper Raymond Leon, a man from the ghetto who for seventy five years has ruled the roost, in keeping time. Big Bang Theory’s Johnny Galecki (36yo) plays a mate of Will Salas who pays the consequences of drink and the ripples of time while a more appropriately aged Alex Pettyfer (21yo) brings out the thug side to keep the suffering minions in line. One cast member who steals a scene or two is Shyloh Oostwald. After small roles on House, Criminal Minds and iCarly this young lady may steal a feature movie or two in the future.
A wide supporting cast keep the action moving but this isn’t a vehicle for Timberlake or Seyfried to shine rather they are carried through the story. Maybe this perception speaks to the power of a strong story that doesn’t need a dramatic leading actor. The tone and backdrop of the movie bring a distinctly Detroit feel to the screen reflected in Mad Max style police vehicles and industrial concrete settings. Combine that with some CSI: Miami style sunsets and you constantly feel time like the sun is running out. In Time does Andrew Niccol justice in telling the story but I can’t help feeling it could have been paced better to create more tension that possibly another director may have brought to the script.
So walking away with time on my hands what has In Time done for me. It made me think about my next 23hrs and 59min for 109min and if I keep thinking about it I will value my time against living and family and not possessions.
Reviewed by: Andrew Pitchford