Admittedly, going into In Time, there was a lot of skepticism. While filmmaker Andrew Niccol has already established himself as an incredible writer and director with films like Gattaca and Lord of War, the choice to cast Justin Timberlake as the semi-action hero was an interesting choice. However, Timberlake’s was perfect for the role, and In Time proved to be a very fun and engaging film, though it is not without its flaws.
The premise of the film is a very unique and intriguing concept. The world of In Time is a world without money, where people pay bills and gamble with their lives, literally. Humans have been genetically altered, being born with a clock built into their arms that counts down the exact number of days, minutes, and seconds until they die. The clock only activates at the age of 25, leaving that person with only one hour to live. Time, however, also functions as currency, and can be transmitted through touch or through certain machines. Therefore, people are also payed in time, and can essentially become immortal if they work hard enough. The rich lie forever, the poor die young, and it is this concept that is the central focus of In Time.
Timberlake plays the role of Will Salas, an industry worker in the ghetto who lives day by day, quite literally. The ghetto is a dangerous place, filled with people who will do anything, even commit murder, to give themselves more time. Through a seemingly normal series of events, Will finds himself with over 100 years of time in his possession, but at a great cost, and seeks out to expose the truth behind the rich who feed off of the poor.
The film takes every chance to demonstrate how the people of the ghetto pay for food and transportation, knowing that every minute spent is bringing them one minute closer to death, while the rich simply show off how much time they have by spending as much as possible. It’s very effective, and really makes you care for the lower-class and Will’s Robin-Hood-esque mission, while at the same time presenting an interesting look at the way we live our lives paycheck-to-paycheck, being forced to make sacrifices all the time just to live. It’s clear that “take from the rich and give to the poor” is the message the film is trying to present, but it never feels preachy or forced.
The cast of characters is, perhaps, In Time‘s greatest weakness. While the acting is top-notch, there is no real complexity to the characters, and they tend to fall into predictable stereotypes. There’s the rebellious love-interest (Amanda Seyfried), the incorruptible cop (Cillian Murphy), and the ruthless gang leader (Alex Pettyfer). They all feel very real, but it would have been nice to know a bit more about their place in the world, rather than just fit them into the story where needed. Justin Timberlake’s performance is easily the best, and shows that he has the talent to take on a variety of different roles.
There’s a lot to be said about Andrew Niccol’s talent behind the camera. The writing is superb, with the dialog being interesting and informative without feeling forced or making things overcomplicated. The camera work is also very well done, and Niccol proves his talent, once again, in making engaging and beautiful scenes.
In the end, In Time is definitely a film worth seeing. While it certainly doesn’t break the science-fiction mold, it does offer up something unique that will leave you contemplating how life would be in that world, as well as what needs to change in the world we live in. That being said, the movie is not for everyone. There are a few, short, well-crafted action scenes, but the majority of the film is involved in exploring the concept of time as currency, and people who value a good thought-provoking sci-fi film will have the most fun. 4 out of 5 stars.