Review: In Time (2011)


There is an old saying; time is money. In our world, it takes time to make money, and it takes money to live. Andrew Niccol’s science fiction film In Time, starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, and Vincent Kartheiser, takes this adage a bit too literally, making the actual minutes, hours, months, and years of a person’s life the currency with which necessities are bought and paid for. When they run out of time…they die. The wealthy are immortal and the poor die too young.

Will Salas (Timberlake) is a poor, working class man living in the ghettos of this futuristic world. Salas has a random run-in with a man by the name of Henry Hamilton (Matthew Bomer), and is enlightened as to the truth about why the poor stay poor and the rich get richer. “Many must die for a few to be immortal,” Hamilton explains. Their meeting ends with Hamilton “timing out” after giving Salas centuries of his time as a gift and running his own clock down to zero as a method of suicide.

After witnessing the cruel death of his mother (Olivia Wilde), and being framed for Hamilton’s murder, Salas decides to use his gift of centuries to turn the system on its head and demand social justice from those in control.

Salas infiltrates the powerful, wealthy class and creates an unlikely bond with the daughter of his arch nemesis, Sylvia Weis (Seyfried). Together they don a Bonnie and Clyde routine to take down her father’s institution from the bottom up. The minutes, days and years they steal back are given away to those who truly need them, offering not only hope to the poor, but also literal life.

Writer/director Andrew Niccol is known for his captivating 1997 science fiction film Gattaca, which takes place in a totalitarian world where genetic selection has created inferior and superior beings, and a man who dares to cross that line. If there is an underlying theme in Niccol’s work, it is that of breaking free of pre-determined classism and striving for social equality.

In Time files in perfectly with this, but fails to be as impactful as Gattaca. The film uses traditional and familiar plot conventions to present a parallel representation of our own social, economic and political injustices, making it relevant. But In Time never pushes past the overall picture to find a deeper conclusion. It just states the same point over and over again; the rich get rich off of the poor, and the poor die without a fighting chance. Its less than subtle parallels to the Robin Hood legends are lackluster and unoriginal.

With such a diverse and experienced cast as In Time, viewers would expect dynamic performances. Unfortunately, it’s as though the talent phases one another out, leaving the film almost devoid of chemistry and emotion. The only moment that inspires any sentiment is the death of Salas’ mother. Even then, Timberlake does a poor job at releasing that emotion and wastes the opportunity.

The shallow delivery on the entire cast’s part does nothing to save the bland characters, who display no convincing signs of growth throughout the film. Sylvia Weis, as a rich girl turned rebel, had the most promise of being a vehicle for the theme, yet she seems to just be floating along for the ride. She’s a little girl with a crush and a gun, but no ideology.

If you can buy into In Time’s outlandish premise then there’s a chance you will enjoy the film for its action sequences and devastatingly attractive cast. Otherwise, it’s nothing more than old tired themes strung together in an emotionless, yet visually fascinating sci-fi thriller. It’s too scared to say anything meaningful, therefore viewers are left with little more than a half-way decent means of killing time.

40/100 - In Time feels like a compilation of recycled themes playing on a skipping record. It fails to take advantage of the opportunity it creates to make a profound statement on today’s socio-economic situation, or stir emotion in its viewers.

Jocelyn Codner

Film has has given me some of the best experiences and memories of my life, from connecting with my family to getting closer to my friends. I graduated from Ithaca College's Roy H. Park School of Communications with a degree in Screewnriting and a goal to one day see my work on the big screen. Until that day, I occupy my time with watching and enjoying the work of others and discussing it with all of you!
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