Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki
Ever since Alpha Dog was released in 2006, Justin Timberlake has done all he can to build a succesful acting career. The popstar-turned-actor road is a heavily tread one, with mixed results that are usually less than stellar (e.g. Rihanna’s umbrella was no match for the shower of sh*t that rained on Battleship), however JT has so far done a fairly decent job, with his turn in The Social Network probably getting the most positive feedback.
2011’s In Time, a cautionary tale set in the future when time has become the currency and your life span is directly linked to how ‘rich’ you are, was a chance to see Timberlake in a headline role, packed full of action to show he can add another string to his bow other than the good-looking charmer.
The basic premise of the story is that in the future, humanity is genetically modified so that we never age above 25 years old. When we reach 25 we are given 1 more year, with time counting down towards zero. When the clock reaches zero, we die, or ‘Time Out’. Time can be passed from one person to another through touch, and all bills are paid in units of time, including wages. As such, by accumulating more and more time, you will never age past 25 and can conceivably live forever. Therefore the very rich are immortal, subject to any accidents or violence, whereas those on the bread line often die early.
In the story, charming good-looker (see what I did there?) Will Salas (Timberlake) is a factory worker in one of the ‘poor’ districts, living day-to-day, rarely having any more time than 24 hours on his clock. A combination of events, including the death of his mother (Wilde) due to over pricing and the gift of a century from a ‘time wealthy’ suicidal stranger, lead Salas down a Robin Hood-esque path where he seeks revenge on those who are stock piling time at the expense of others.
Along the way he meets arrogant ‘millionaire’ Phillippe Weiss (Kartheiser) and his daughter Sylvia (Seyfried), who he takes an instant liking to. Chasing him all the way is Timekeeper cop Raymond Leon (Murphy) who believes Salas stole the time he inherited and wants it returned to the rightful owner.
As a vehicle for Timberlake, this certainly does the trick in expanding his resume, and it’s interesting seeing him try something different, however it hasn’t left me thinking he could be the next action hero as he doesn’t have the required intensity that a Stallone, Statham or even Damon has.
The rest of the supporting cast do a pretty good job selling the story, with Cillian Murphy and Alex Pettyfer (playing a petty gangster) stealing their respective scenes.
When it’s done right, thought-provoking sci-fi films can be among the very finest examples of movie going experiences. You only need to see the influences of The Matrix to know that.
Directed by Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed cult-classic Gattaca, In Time had the opportunity to join the elite, however whilst it shoots for the stars, it sadly only reaches the moon. An admirable feat, but not quite the game changer it wanted to be.
One cannot argue that alot of effort has gone into the process, with the design department deserving a huge pat on the back. The arm watch is simple but an effective use of special effects, whilst the backdrop to the story is also well imagined, with modern architecture receiving a small facelift, rather than creating a whole new horizon of unrecognisable futuristic buildings.
But for all the style, the substance let’s itself down a little. At the start of the film we get a Timberlake voice-over which sets us up, telling us about the genetically modified human race, but we are left questioning the ‘why’, or indeed the ‘how’. Admittedly, I can have a stab at the ‘why’, who doesn’t wish they could live in their prime forever, but is this truly something that would become widespread across the world, or is it more likely to be a play things for the rich?
As for the ‘how’, I appreciate that most science fiction movies will lean much more heavily on the ‘fiction’ than the ‘science’, however the concept of creating potential immortality, especially one where the host is left at 25 years old, seems far beyond the capabilities of technology.
The concept of using time as a currency is an interesting one, however it did present problems with scripting. In one early scene, a young girl runs up to Timberlake and asks “Have you got a minute?”. A clever play on words you might think, as it turns out she was asking for ‘money’ rather than a conversation, however it does mean that it is difficult to follow future conversations about ‘time’ as to whether they are discussing currency or actual time.
One other issue I had was the casting, which is not something I usually consider, however I found it odd that in a film set mostly in a down-and-out neighborhood, there seemed to be one 10-year-old girl, a young baby and literally everyone else was 25 years old (or more). I appreciate that it’s only a minor niggle, but one which bugged me.
And finally, don’t cast Johnny Galecki, a man who is nearly 40 and hasn’t looked 25 since the late 1980s in a film like this. Come on people, what were you thinking?
In summary, there are things to like about In Time, it is after all a fairly enjoyable couple of hours, however it sadly falls short and comes across as a Matrix-for-teens, all style and no substance. Luckily though it was ‘Justin Time’ to give me some fun (surely you didn’t expect me to miss that pun out?!)
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Did you know? Many of the character names are those of famous, and not so famous, watchmakers. The name Weis is pronounced the same as the watchmaker Albert Wajs.