This science fiction thriller is fairly well-made and manages to create a reasonably coherent alternative world as a way of exploring issues in this world. Like with a lot of science fiction films half the fun is in watching, the other half is trying to think of questions that the film raised but may not answer fully.
In the future all humans are genetically engineered to reach the age of 25 and then stop aging. But at 25 they only have one year on the clock, a literal glowing green clock on their left arm, and they must earn any extra time from work or trade. The film does not discuss how this situation came about which is just as well because I can’t really think of a feasible scenario. With this set-up time is literally money and every transaction involves the exchange of time. The rich can afford so much time that potentially they could live forever, always 25, while the poorest live day-to-day, earning just enough time each day to live for one more day. The world is split in to time zones to keep the different classes apart to maintain order controlled by tollbooths that get increasingly expensive to pass from ghetto to rich zone
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in the poorest ghetto sector, a normal shlob who has to go work at a factory every day to earn enough to live through another day and come back and do it again. His mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde) looks the same age as him but is chronologically 50 which is fairly distracting. After a hard day at work Will goes to a bar for some drinks with his best friend Borel (Johnny Galecki). They see a man with a lot of time drinking at the bar and Will warns him that the local wolves are coming for him. The Minutemen are lowlife gangsters who steal time with violence and Will manages to get the man away from the gang to an old warehouse where they can hide out safely. The man is Henry Hamilton and he is very rich and very old and he’s tired of being alive. He says to Will “For a few to be immortal many must die,” The following morning when Will wakes up he finds that Hamilton has transferred almost all his time to him leaving himself just enough to leave the warehouse and sit on bridge to wait for death. Will tries to reach him but it’s too late.
Later that day Will transfers 10 years to Borel to help him to look after his family. After Will leaves we see Borel heading for the bar and you can guess that does not end well. Will also wants to take his mother to the upmarket Greenwich City and arranges to meet her off the bus from her flat. Unfortunately the bus fare has been increased and Rachel doesn’t have enough time and she doesn’t have the time to walk to meet Will. This is a very well-done scene with the two them desperately running to meet each other but failing Rachel and dies in front of him.
Will goes to Greenwich City which is all well-kept glass steel and concrete and landscape gardening and the prices are very high. People notice that he doesn’t really fit in because he still does everything quickly. Will decides to try his hand at the poker table in a casino and does very well up against the mega-rich Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) winning more than a millennium from him. Weis introduces Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) and Will makes point of having to ask if she is his wife or mother but she is his daughter. He also invites Will to a party at his house for a chance to win some of his time back.
The law enforcement in this future is done by a group called the timekeepers led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy). Their main duty is to ensure that spare time stays where it belongs in the wealthy zones so they take an interest in a wealthy man dying in the ghetto. From security camera footage they spot Will and track his movements.
Will buys himself a flashy car and goes to Weis’s party where he gets introduced to Weis’s wife and mother-in-law, both creepily looking the same age as his daughter Sylvia.Will and Sylvia go outside and have swim in the ocean but have to cut it short when Philippe comes out looking for her. Back in the house Weis and Philippe are just about to start their game when Leon comes in with the intention of arresting Will under suspicion of murdering Hamilton. They take most of his time in one of the metal boxes used to exchange time, leaving him with only a few hours. Will escapes from the timekeepers and gets away by taking Sylvia hostage and escaping back to ghetto. Will now understands that the whole system is designed to steal time from the majority of people to feed the unnatural meaningless lifestyles of the wealthy and he and Sylvia have to find a way to break it.
This movie does the job of any big dystopian thriller but doesn’t go for way-out designs to say “look we’re in the future.” It mostly looks like the present just a bit different and that is refreshing as well as being cheaper to film. Having all the characters played by people who are apparently 25 was of varying success. Cillian Murphy does a good job playing a man who is really in his 70s but is still Cillian Murphy. Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried are competent leads. I know Sci-fi geeks do like to pull apart plots for scientific plausibility but the plot of In Time is just a giant “What If…” story. It is hard to miss the parallels in the story with the real-world economic situation and in these times of recession we see that while most are tightening their belts there are those who are not only still getting richer they are getting richer from the fact that others are getting poorer. This film is no classic but it is a nice watch.
- Rotten Tomatoes
- DVD Review: In Time (writer.fitzhome.com)
- Justin Timberlake rocks the big screen in “In Time” (shscub.wordpress.com)