What a great premise for a film, that in the future the base currency of the economy is time, time remaining in your life, and if you’re blue collar, every day’s a struggle to quite literally earn sufficient time to stay alive while the ruling class, the 1%, have decades or even centuries of time to spare and can easily toss down a few years on the turn of a card. To keep track, everyone has a glowing countdown timer embedded on their left forearm, showing the years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds left in your life if you don’t somehow earn — or steal — more.
Unfortunately, the film ‘In Time’ is a mess and for all the times it’s thought provoking about the manipulation of the economy by corporate-states, the implications of time-based currency and the stark, overt manipulation of this temporal economy by those in power, there are too many times when the dialog is flat, the characters are ludicrous and the action is incomprehensible. ‘In Time’ focuses on Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a factory worker who struggles to earn enough time to stay alive until the next shift and who dreams of someday earning enough time that he can give some to his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde) so they can go to the rich neighborhood of New Greenwich.
Through a series of mishaps with the time-stealing “Minute Men” thug Fortis (Alex Pettyfer), Salas finds himself on the run and ends up entering New Greenwich, where he bumps into the one-dimensional uber-wealthy evil businessman Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and his beautiful daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) who, predictably, is bored with being rich and seeks some purpose to her life. How convenient that Salas shows up!
In a sort of weird hybrid between ‘Logan’s Run’, ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’, the two of them end up on the lam, running through an oddly muted retro-50s dystopian future and, more specifically, Timekeeper Leon (Cillian Murphy) who, again predictably, begins to question his own role in this temporal house of cards as a hand-to-mouth cop who earns barely more than a day of time for each day worked.
A lot of sci-fi movies leave me bored. ‘In Time’ left me frustrated. The concept really is interesting and with a smarter scriptwriter who could have avoided all the tired cliché cinematic tropes this could have been a really great film. Instead it’s a mildly entertaining pastiche, a film that’s probably worth watching, but maybe not at $12/ticket in the first run theater. Then again, if you have to consciously pay 2 hours of your life to walk in, maybe it’s worth skipping for something more satisfying and rewarding after all…