Justin Timberlake as Will Salas
Amanda Seyfried as Sylvia Weis
Cillian Murphy as Raymond Leon
Vincent Kartheiser as Philippe Weis
Olivia Wilde as Rachel Salas
Matt Bomer as Henry Hamilton
Johnny Galecki as Borel
Alex Pettyfer as Fortis
Collins Pennie as Timekeeper Jaeger
Toby Hemingway as Timekeeper Kors
Seema Lazar as Timekeeper Ellini
Bella Heathcote as Michele Weis
Faye Kingslee as Timekeeper Jean
Kristopher Higgins as Timekeeper Dent
La Monde Byrd as Minuteman Rado
Paul David Story as Minuteman Roth
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Will Sala (Justin Timberlake) is running out of time. In a world where everyone is only allocated one extra year after they turn 25, Will only has one day left to live until he meets a man with over a hundred years on his “arm clock,” who decides to transfer his time to Will. This allows him to move in circles frequented by wealthy industrialist Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) where he decides to get revenge for the death of his mother by kidnapping Weis’ daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), who joins him in trying to change the system as they’re pursued by a unstoppable Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy).
2011 has been a great year for high-concept science fiction, so it was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped and we’d get a real stinker, and it’s truly a shame that it comes from filmmaker Andrew Niccol, whose earlier sci-fi movie “Gattaca” is still cited as one of the better original sci-fi concepts of recent years.
We’re back in another dystopian future, but this one builds upon the adage that “time is money” taking it to the most logical extreme in a world where everyone is only allocated a certain amount of time on earth and that time is used to negotiate everything, even down to buying a cup of coffee. It’s essentially a twist on the “Logan’s Run” idea, but the inhabitants of this world can add more time to their “arm clocks” in order to live longer. Timberlake’s character Will Sala is a young man living “day to day,” in the ghetto, where everyone is struggling to get more time by whatever means possible. The rich people in the district of New Greenwich have lived for decades and have hundreds or thousands of years banked so they can live forever, often at the expense of the poor.
One would imagine this is another great idea with a lot of potential, but it’s squandered fairly quickly, because you can only look at people running around with digital watches on their arms, and rubbing arms with others in order to exchange currency before it quickly grows tiring, turning what sounds like a cool concept on paper into something silly and ridiculous. If watching people play poker with time isn’t enough proof, then it offers an even lamer bit of “arm-wrestling” where two people vie to take time from one another.
It might not be any sort of revelation that Justin Timberlake just isn’t very good in this role, maybe because he’s better at comedy, and here, he just plays things way too serious. More surprising is how weak Amanda Seyfried is playing opposite him. She’s normally a decent actress, but she just seems to be dumbing herself down in order to play a role in an “action movie,” kind of like any actress who has ever appeared in a Michael Bay movie. There’s certainly something gratifying about watching the increasingly hot actress running around in a tight dress with JT, the two of them cuddling and canoodling whenever they’re not acting like an ersatz Bonnie and Clyde, stealing time from the rich to give to the poor, but not a lot.
They’re being chased by a Timekeeper played by Cillian Murphy, who is actually one of the better aspects of the movie, because at least you can expect some action whenever he shows up, but those scenes are few and far between. Playing the corporate villain, quite horribly, is Vincent Kartheiser, and Alex Pettyfer’s presence doesn’t do much to reduce his run of bad movies, as he plays a thug chasing after Will to get his hands on the missing years. His real British accent sounds fake, giving you some idea how affected his performance is.
You can tell that Niccol was trying to make a cool, noir-influenced film, but what he ends up with is a movie full of pretty 25 year olds, none of them who are particularly good actors. Although it’s meant to be science fiction, there are far too many questions about how the world got this way, and why humans have been altered in such a drastic manner. There seems to be little logic or reasoning put into creating the world beyond the central concept. Besides creating a world with no old people, there’s also no variety in size or looks–no fat or ugly people, please–and you may start wondering how the poor people of the ghetto are able to wear clothes almost as nice as the wealthy people in New Greenwich.
It’s also never quite clear what reasoning there is behind Will taking Phillipe’s daughter; if she was meant to be a hostage, he doesn’t exactly make an effort to get ransom from her father, and we never get any proper motivation for her having any desire to redistribute time, making it seem more like an afterthought.
Before you even get that far, you’ll have to suspend belief watching Olivia Wilde play Will’s “50-year-old mother” who somehow has managed to live for 25 years in these conditions. Wilde is wasted in a ridiculous scene where she doesn’t have the two hours needed to pay the bus fare, so she starts running in order to get somewhere before the 90 minutes on her clock runs out. We then see her son Will running towards her trying to reach her before her clock runs out. It’s as dumb as it sounds, which is why it’s surprising when this scene is replicated almost identically later between Will and Sylvia, and comes off just as corny. After a while, you can’t even keep track of how much time anyone in the movie has left ’cause it’s trading back and forth so frequently, and it’s hard to imagine either Will or Sylvia are in any danger after they’ve robbed a bank holding hundreds of years.
Anything potentially good about the movie gets lost in a mish-mash of ideas that rarely fit together comfortably, and by the second time someone uses the term “cleaning one’s clock” as a euphemism for murder, the concept has well and fully run its course. At some point during the movie, you may wonder whether anyone at Fox even bothered to read the script before greenlighting this, because there’s no way the inanity of this premise wouldn’t have been obvious from doing so.
The Bottom Line:
In a year full of great science fiction, “In Time” is weak, moronic and dumbed down to the point of diluting anything that may have made it remotely interesting. You’ll frequently find yourself looking at your own arm clock as time slips away in hopes that things will get better.