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MOVIE REVIEW: In Time

Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Olivia Wilde

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Throwaway science fiction like In Time proves just how little faith Hollywood has in American audiences these days. This numbskull commentary on big business and unfair distribution of wealth from director/writer/producer Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) takes an interesting futuristic premise – people stop aging at 25 and must buy time to survive - and simplifies it within a juvenile and sloppy chase film narrative.

Strangely, the only geographic area of interest in this dystopic vision is the various urban spaces on and around the Boyle Heights 6th Street Bridge approaching downtown Los Angeles. Such redundancy makes for some seriously tedious action scenes, especially once you’ve seen the same spot photographed from every conceivable angle. Even worse, In Time’s incessant rich vs. poor dichotomies practically demand to be taken seriously as a kind of grand assault against what it calls “Darwinian Capitalism.” Niccol hammers this point home by celebrating a reactionary form of lower class heroism, a Robin Hood-esque construct for our Occupy Wall Street era.

The action kicks of with blue-collar hunk Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) rescuing a wealthy suicidal man who’s carrying around 100 years worth of currency on his arm clock, the green-hued digital display showing how many years, months, day, hours, minutes, and seconds each person has left to live. When the man transfers his remaining years to Will before killing himself, the sudden shift of time sets off a chain reaction that jettisons him into the highest echelons of power.

During his foray into the wealthy “time zone”, sectioned off areas based on social standing, Will meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a corporate thug that decides to rebel against daddy and all he sin he stands for. Together, they form a clumsy Bonnie and Clyde team that somehow manages to escape gangsters and futuristic policemen (fittingly called ‘Time Keepers”).

Before In Time becomes a complete slog, some genuinely interesting issues of morality are raised. The lower classes are literally living day-to-day, some dying on the way to work because no one will lend them more time. One staggering shot of coworkers walking past a body as they clock in is the film’s most poignant moment. But these themes of sacrifice and apathy are too easily connected with the social hierarchies dominating the story.

Every rich person is evil and wants to control the vast amount of time to stay immortal, and most of the slave-wages group is kind-hearted and generous with their short-lived lifespan. Sylvia remains the only character to bridge the two black and white groups, but Seyfried’s goo-goo eyed performance can’t muster enough complexity to make her role anything but one-note. 

Atrocious dialogue and a lack of chemistry between the lead characters amplify the film’s prosaic view of the world; further diminishing Niccol’s overt attempts at social commentary. While the thought of temporal currency defining clear-cut boundaries between social classes and neighborhoods is interesting in theory, the film takes place inside such a shoddy action thriller world that all of this ambition begins to reek of platitudes. Despite the imminence of certain death, these mouthy characters sure do have a lot of time to preach.

In Time is currently playing in wide release.