Youth worshipper - Your wife, mother, dad and husband all look like your classmates. Better hurry!
Published: October 27, 2011
In Time presents an unspecified future where time is money: You want a latte? That'll be four minutes off your life. Want that sports car? Six months. People in this dystopia stop physically aging at 25; your wife, your mother and your girlfriend all look like classmates. Yet this comes at the cost of a neon countdown timer implanted in your arm; a beast that has to be fueled with credits to continue running. Everything in this genetically perfected society runs on an egg timer of social Darwinism; you can stay young and beautiful forever, but only if you have the means.
This is a delightfully complex high-concept idea is clumsily wrapped around chase-movie gear-works then used to bludgeon the audience with manufactured thrills. Similarities abound with the '70s cheeseball sci-fi spectacular Logan's Run, which also involved a pair of photogenic outlaws rebelling against a lethally youth-obsessed society, though sadly this one doesn't involve monorails, lycra jumpsuits or ray guns. Instead, we have a faintly futuristic slum that looks just like some of the grungier parts of Los Angeles, but is called "Dayton." Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is one disgruntled resident, a factory drone living day-by-day (literally), until he rescues a wealthy man from thugs. This kindly stranger has had far too much of the good life, and grants Will with a bonus century before committing suicide by jumping into the same concrete river basin John Travolta drag-raced in Grease.
The local thugs, and Cillian Murphy's hard-driving inspector, can't believe Will's sudden good fortune, and he's soon in a desperate race to keep one step ahead of the forces that won't cut a poor kid a break. His improvised escape plan involves breaking into the guarded rich folks' zone, then kidnapping a millionaire's daughter (Amanda Seyfried) and heading out on the lam. Together they become a sort of Versace-ad Bonnie and Clyde, liberating banks, and spreading the pilfered minutes around to the poor, in order to overturn civilization's rotten applecart.
Talk about good timing: The movie's proletariat revolt and economic-justice message dovetails beautifully with the current Occupy phenom. Too bad the provocative theme and power-to-the-people message is overridden by action beats and chase movie tropes that involve absurd coincidences happening roughly every seven minutes.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol got more mileage out of the eugenically perfect world of haves and have-nots in the semi-classic Gattaca, but here he runs out of time to explain his theme. Stiff acting and storytelling shortcuts undermine a clever concept. After an intriguing first half, you'll probably be checking your watch.
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