This sci-fi thriller ‘In Time’ begins with Justin Timberlake’s character of Will Salas telling us via narration, right from the start, that he doesn’t remember how any of this crazy stuff we are about to view began. Thus by starting your film this way, theoretically this frees the creatives behind ‘In Time’, largely writer / director Andrew Niccol, from supplying us with any kind of back story or exposition as to why or how in the heck did this society found a way to genetically engineer people to stop aging at the age of twenty-five. Therein lies my dilemma with ‘In Time’, which for the most part was a completely acceptable action / thriller, but in the back of my head I kept needing to know ‘why’ and I couldn’t shake it. To the contrary, you may sit down and watch this film and you could be swept away by the action, watching super cool Justin Timberlake be super cool, observing the absolutely adorable Amanda Seyfried’s abnormally large blue eyes which are so far apart that they almost sit on the side of her head, and get caught up with the romance between the two… and the ‘why’ of it all might not matter. Unfortunately I needed just a little more than J.T.’s and Amanda’s good looks to carry me through.
It is the future… duh… and once you hit twenty-five you get hit with this awesome digital countdown clock on your arm with one year on it. When that year is up, you’re done. However in this future, that year is currency. You’re job pays you in time so if you want some coffee, you pay it in time, if you’re clock is getting close to zero, you had better hope that a friend will give you a quick loan, or you can go to the local credit office and apply for a loan with interest rates that would make Tony Soprano say ‘damn… that’s high’.
Will Salas is a kind man who lives day to day, literally, and gives his extra time away. Mostly to his fifty year old mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde). Oedipal fantasies abound. Then one fateful evening Will saves the life one Henry Hamilton (William Bomer) from the evil time jacking Minute Men, and as a gift to him, Henry bequeaths Will all of his time… Henry being suicidal and all… and now Will’s clock has gone from one day to one century. Can’t beat that.
Now a lot of stuff happens to Will because of this gift, mostly bad, but Will has decided to leave his ghetto and make the trip to the erudite zone of New Greenwich to BRING DOWN THE MAN. Unfortunately for Will, he has caught the attention of the zealous Time Keeping Cop Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) who will stop at nothing to bring Will to justice, even though the boy hasn’t done anything wrong. In this society, apparently poor folks aren’t allowed not to be poor.
Thus in a set of action film circumstances, Will makes the acquaintance of the Time Banker’s daughter Sylvia (Seyfried), he’s forced to kidnap her, she hates him… we know this is temporary… she sees life for what it really is beyond her golden walls, and now we have a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde on the run, stealing time and giving it to the poor Robin Hood style.
But rich folks don’t like it when others take what they have already stolen, and with the self hating Time Cop on their side, they plan to get it back. I’m thinking that’s not going to happen. I’m thinking that action, chaos, mayhem and eventually love will ensue. That’s what I’m thinking.
Ignoring my intense desire and need to know ‘why’, even though they told me from the word ‘go’ that I was going to get nothing, I really was engaged during the first half of Niccol’s ‘In Time’. The concept of Time as Currency gives our characters a desperation that you just don’t have when you’re only dealing with money. Along with the oppressive economics, the occasional play on words was cool, the setup for Will’s eventual stressful situation was nice and there was this overall sense, at least as this movie was getting underway, that you were watching something that was fascinating, on top of being unique. For this we are thankful as we are actually watching that rare American movie that’s not based on a comic, it’s not a sequel, it’s not a remake, and it’s actually a semi-original idea from some guy with a word processor. That by itself should prompt you to run out and see this movie.
But around the time Will and Sylvia turned into Bonnie and Clyde, the movie started to lose its advantage. Even though this is a futuristic society, the movie exist in an alternate reality that we all can relate to since it is similar to our own, and as such the same rules of things ‘making sense’ still apply. When Sylvia mentioned she knew how to acquire more time, I thought she had some kind of clever inside scheme up her sleeve, but it was just a traditional smash and grab at a bank, which is apparently the first time anybody in this reality ever thought of doing that. And for time to be as valuable as it is, security at these banks sure is lax. And if you can engineer fancy digital arm clocks to track your time, shouldn’t there be some kind of organic firewall to keep folks from taking my time by just walking to up me and touching me? They’ve also engineered out ugly and chubby in this reality. Not all twenty five year olds are good looking and thin you know. I also gotta admit when Will and Sylvia were talking to each other, I kind of lost focus. Amanda Seyfried and Justin Timberlake might look great together, this we can’t deny, but sure didn’t sound great together. It was the second half of ‘In Time’ which devolved into suspect dialog and ridiculousness, just like every other movie, which brought the promising start down a few levels.
Then, of course, there was also the nagging issue of ‘how’ and ‘why’, but why get into to that when they told us from the start we aren’t getting any of that? ‘In Time’ did have potential, and the first half of this film did make it something worth watching from where I was sitting, I’m just of the opinion that Andrew Niccol couldn’t completely close the deal on what was looking to be a very promising Sci-Fi epic.