Review: ‘In Time’

“In Time is a lot of fun and even pretty meaningful, as long as you don’t think about it too hard.”

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani

Oh, for the days when sci-fi was allowed to be weird. A time when it didn’t matter how plausible the storyline was, as long as it offered a great allegory for contemporary problems. Like Logan’s Run and Soylent Green before it, In Time is a lot of fun and even pretty meaningful, as long as you don’t think about it too hard. In Time is one of those movies, because I enjoyed the hell out of it but can’t actually analyze it too hard without blowing up small portions of my brain.

For example, I have trouble imagining a point in the future when everyone on Earth would agree to conform to the dystopian meddling that goes on in In Time. I’m willing to accept an alternate reality in which everyone is genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, in which they’re all given just one more year to survive after that, and in which the economy is based on distribution of that time as opposed to traditional currency, because it’s an interesting setting for a story. But can you imagine taking the guy who suggested that we do this in the first place seriously? Can you imagine voting for it after he did? It would take a fascist regime to set up this system, but that level of fascism wouldn’t allow for the free market allegory endemic to the concept. So it must have been instituted by force a long time ago, allowing for complete enforcement of the system, and eventually overrun by capitalism centuries later. But at one point the protagonist, played by Justin Timberlake, points a gun at someone and says, “Your money or your life!” before adding “But your money is your life,” implying that it’s a recent enough development that ARGH!!!

But if you’re not a film critic and aren’t responsible for overanalyzing every little detail of In Time’s high concept, you’ll find a smart, funny and very enjoyable allegory for the uneven distribution of wealth that’s receiving so much attention these days, what with the whole “Occupy Wall Street” thing. Justin Timberlake plays a man living day-to-day, always waking up with only a few hours on his clock, who works seven days a week (presumably) just to stay alive. But when he chances upon a suicidal rich man who gives him over a hundred years as a parting gift, he’s catapulted into the world of the rich and powerful and really, really old. “Time Keeper” Cillian Murphy is responsible for maintaining the financial balance, and pursues Timberlake doggedly until the end of the film to try to keep him in his place.

Not a subtle metaphor, but it works. Andrew Niccol, who also wrote such excellent high concept sci-fi fare as The Truman Show and Gattaca, clearly had a blast writing this screenplay, conceiving of almost every angle of this strange society and then throwing in bon mots with almost maniacal glee. Every expression you can think of involving the word “time” makes a cameo appearance, from “My time is running out” to “That’s some quality time.” And beyond those surface delights there’s a thrilling and subversive rebelliousness to the thing, as Timberlake and the heiress he kidnaps become bank robbers, aiming to redistribute enough of wealth to completely shatter the entire financial system. In Time says that’s a good thing. Maybe they’re right, maybe they’re wrong, but it’s hard not to embrace the pubescent anti-establishment fist-shaking anyway as Niccol’s film bounds from chase scene to chase scene to face-smacking pun and so forth.

Where In Time falters, occasionally, is with its young cast, many of whom are decent actors but who fail to capture the true age of their characters in one way or another. Alex Pettyfer never seems older than he looks, even though he’s supposed to be at least 75, while Cillian Murphy is truly beleaguered and excellent, even though he’s clearly in his mid-30s in real life. Credit goes to Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser, however, who completely nails it. It’s like he’s channeling Sydney Greenstreet himself, making his the most compelling performance in the film.

In Time is a little ridiculous but so much fun that you won’t care. It doesn’t survive the trip to the refrigerator back home, but once that Pepsi is in your hands and you’re wondering why, if time can be commoditized in digital form, they can’t just make more of it whenever it gets stolen, you’ll probably be snickering too hard at the puns to care.

And as a neat little bonus, those timers on everyone’s arms will make a great last minute Halloween costume. Grab a green sharpie and you’re done!

CraveOnline Rating: 8/10