MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
Despite the less than glowing reviews, I’ve been curious to see In Time since a friend first explained the film’s concept to me several months ago. It’s very much an ideas film, or maybe more accurately, a film with an idea. Time is money, quite literally.
In Time presents a dystopian universe in the non-specific future in which humans are pre-engineered to stop the aging process after 25 years. To survive you must earn and spend the currency of time. It’s a neat little sci-fi concept, it’s all incredibly simple, both in terms of idea and narrative. Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a ghettoized prole only just managing to survive day by day who via a random encounter finds himself with time to burn and on the run as a wrongly suspected murderer. Strangely, it actually plays out like a slightly more sci-fi Communist Manifesto as Will uncovers the processes of exploitation by the bourgeoisie overlords. Class struggle, capitalist control and an overthrow of false consciousness galore – JT’s gone a little Karl Marx.
Alright, maybe I’m overplaying the importance of the themes a bit, but it’s all in there. I’ve heard so many reviews that complain that underneath the ‘time is money’ idea there’s not really anything else. In a world of patriotic, flag waving, gun-carrying, action heroes, In Time at least attempts something slightly different.
Crucify me, but I have no problem with Justin Timberlake as an actor. He was good in The Social Network and perfectly passable in the mediocre Friends With Benefits and here again he does a perfectly decent job as a leading man. The film co-stars Cillian Murphy, one of my favourite actors who plays a ‘time keeper’, a bit like a morally ambiguous time policeman whose sympathies become clearer throughout the film. Mad Men‘s baby-face Vincent Kartheiser is given quite a considerable role as a 75 year old time-tycoon, whose daughter (Amanda Seyfried) becomes entangled with Will’s situation.
Maybe only a side issue, but for film where everyone apparently stops aging at 25, why can’t a few more of the cast actually look that age? Cillian Murphy is 35, and as handsome as he is, 25 is a bit of a stretch. It’s actually rather ironic I’m making this point with a cast including Vincent Kartheiser, whose character Pete Campbell in Mad Men is delightfully roughly the same age as the actor, despite the fact he could easily be playing 18-20 in the first season at least. In Hollywood everyone has to look a bit old for their age, but why is it so rarely the other way around?
More importantly, what doesn’t work so well is that the simple plot isn’t particularly compelling and feels rather contrived. Certainly the dialogue feels that way. For example, when Will robs someone at gunpoint he quips “I would say your money or your life, but your money is your life.” Not only is such dialogue extremely cheesy, but it’s also rather illogical considering the popular saying “your money or your life” would mean nothing to Will considering how long it seems the time-currency situation has been in operation. All the dialogue is a bit too on the nose. It knows it’s got a clever little idea backing it and it tries to exploit that idea for all it’s worth.
That being said, it’s good, frolicking and light sci-fi fun. And a little Marxist. It’s always watchable and there are plenty of nice little touches to bring this strange, quirky alternative universe to life. Considering the undoubted flaws, I probably enjoyed it more than the flaws should allow. It might not be Inception, but it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure.
In Time is out now in the UK and US. Running time: 109 mins. Certificate 12A (UK).
Comments and feedback are always welcome or just give the film a rating by using the stars at the top.
Review by David Rank