I’ll admit In Time is a pretty stupid movie. There are a ton of plot holes, cliches every five minutes, and multiple time-related puns in the dialogue. But I had a good time with it, and I think it’s perfectly passable entertainment. Sometimes, we go to the movies to see people go on the run, rob banks, shoot people, and look sexy doing it, and that’s exactly what this film delivers.
In a vague future (or alternate timeline scenario), the currency of the world is no longer money, but time. People stop genetically aging when they turn 25, and a one year countdown begins until they “time out.” When a stranger gives Will Salas (Timberlake) an extra hundred years to live, he takes the opportunity to get out of his live-by-the-minute ghetto and ventures to the rich district, where people live for thousands of years in their same 25-year-old bodies. He meets Sylvia (Seyfried), the daughter of the man behind it all (Kartheiser), and the two go on the run from a resilient Timekeeper (Murphy) tasked with stopping their Robin Hood-esque crusade to bring time to the masses.
So we’ve established that this isn’t a great film. But for every eye-rolling one-liner, there is something that’s just plain cool about In Time. First off, writer/director Andrew Niccol (who also wrote The Truman Show) essentially teaches a class on world-building here. Without a ton of exposition or any unnecessary narration, he sets up the rules of the world in less than ten minutes, even if he doesn’t make it feel exactly like a viable place. Aside from the obvious looming question of “how did things transition into time-related currency from the way we know them now?”, the only aspect of the design that didn’t work for me was when the production designers decided to get cute with it, adding in signs for things like “The 99 Second Store” as characters walked by.
Secondly, the movie looks absolutely fantastic. Famed cinematographer Roger Deakins chose to shoot the film completely digitally for the first time in his career, and the results are sleek and spectacular. A nifty foot chase across rooftops and the occasional car chase keep the pace moving quickly, which is a necessity for any movie with a literal ticking clock. There may be stupid moments, but they’re all moving so quickly that I found most of them easy to ignore. The action is more commendable than the smaller dramatic scenes, but I also found the cast to be really likeable: Timberlake can easily carry a film on his shoulders, Amanda Seyfried was solid (and awesomely hot) as usual, and Cillian Murphy managed to bring a bit of humanity to his bounty hunter role.
Niccol also inserts some social commentary into his screenplay. It’s another case of the haves vs. the have nots (as if we haven’t seen that on film a billion times), but at least it’s done with some flair. Exchanges like the following are commonplace in this movie:
“How can you live with yourself watching people die right next to you?”
“You don’t…you close your eyes.”
It’s not subtle filmmaking, but it’s effective storytelling that gets the point across and provides a sliver of topicality for those on the hunt for something beneath the surface. Ultimately, In Time is a standard thriller that doesn’t take any chances or play out any differently than you’d imagine. I’ll resist the urge to end this on a time-related pun, since the movie itself was content to take most of the good ones, so instead, I’ll leave you with this: do you think Justin Timberlake agreed to star in In Time because his name is JustIN TIME-berlake? Until next time…