I’m a huge fan of writer/director Andrew Niccol – especially his earlier films. Hit debut picture Gattaca is one of my all-time favorites. Nearly all of his movies – including The Truman Show (which he wrote) – deal with social issues via symbolism and metaphore. In Time is no different, only it’s not as solid as it has the potential to be.
In Time is set in the distant future where man has to fight even harder for survival. Each person has a clock embedding in their forearm that shows how much time he/she has left to live. The clock doesn’t start ticking until age 25 and each person is given one free year to live after that. If your clock runs out, you die.
Time is the currency of the future. All purchases – coffee, bus fair, rent – are paid in time. In return, businesses no longer pay cash money for a day’s hard work – you’re now paid in time. Lower classes literally live day to day, while the wealthy remain in a constant mid-twenties state for as long as they can afford. Because of greed, there is no distribution of wealth. The rich will literally stay rich forever, while the poor are destined to die young.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is an honest guy from a humble empoverished upbringing. Although all he knows is the ghetto lifestyle – which is filled with stealing and dishonesty – because his mother (Olivia Wilde) raised him well, he gives as much as he can to those worse off than him. When he notices a wealthy man about to have his clock cleaned by a gang of time bandits, Will risks everything to save him. Noticing Will’s integrity and good will, the stranger passes more than a century of time to Will’s clock before “timing out” (a.k.a. killing himself by allowing his clock to run out). With nothing to lose, Will sets off on a mission to break the system and give everyone a fair shot at living.
Great idea, right? Mind you, that’s just me skimming the surface of the work Niccol created. It goes much deeper in the film. But the concept is not the problem with In Time. No, the problem stems from the story he decides to place in it. While the story isn’t terrible, it’s not nearly as original and creative as the concept alone would lead you to believe. In Time quickly turns into a Robin Hood / Bonnie & Clyde story – a cute couple starts stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. There is so much potential due to this genius idea, only it’s never – not once – met.
Niccol put together a great cast for In Time, only he placed them in the wrong roles. Timberlake is decent as the lead, but co-star Cillian Murphy would have been a much better choice for Will. The same goes for the leading ladies. Amanda Seyfried is too rigid, cold and robotic as Will’s love interest / sidekick. Olivia Wilde’s natural charm and charisma would have better suited that role.
It’s always a shame to see such a great concept wasted on a mediocre, run-of-mill movie. Such is the case with In Time. It could have been great had the story strived for the same creative unique nature of the idea behind it. As is, In Time is just another mediocre thriller.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox