Mania Review: In Time -

Mania Grade: B

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  • Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Vincent Kartheiser and Matthew Bomer
  • Written by: Andrew Niccol
  • Directed by: Andrew Niccol
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: In Time


By Rob Vaux     October 28, 2011

 In Time hearkens back to an older era of science fiction, which helps it overcome some significant storytelling hurdles. Like director Andrew Niccol’s earlier film Gattaca, it spins a single concept into an entire universe, then invites us in to play. At times it stumbles over the particulars, particularly the ending where it doesn’t wrap things up so much as ramble to a stop. But it holds too many strong notions executed too well to let its shortcomings derail it.

Granted, the initial concept takes a fairly big gulp to swallow. In the future, everyone is born genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. From that moment, everyone has one year left to live; however, people can buy and sell more time, transferring it by gripping each other’s arms. It thus becomes the new currency, with coffee costing several minutes of life and vehicles costing dozens of years. It also gives rise to a new elite class, where the unspeakably wealthy can live forever and the poor survive with literally just a few hours to live at any given moment.

The allusions to class inequity are obvious, and anyone who’s ever lived paycheck to paycheck can empathize with the quiet desperation on display. With his basic idea established, Niccol follows it through to its logical ends. Members of the underclass often run to their destinations, for instance, while the rich live in silent fear of a violent crime or accidental death (the only thing that can end their existence). Parents look just as young as their children, making for a deliberately creepy vibe in a number of scenes, and the question of population control hovers ominously over a world where everyone can conceivably live forever.

It grants the universe some much-needed weight, aided by simple yet effective art direction that spins tasty stew out of a few measly oysters. Like Gattaca, the fashions are all retro noir, and a stripped-down Los Angeles makes a convincing future cityscape (with downtown serving as the ghetto and Century City the bastions of the rich and powerful).  The shake-up arrives when a rich man, tired of his pointless existence, gives over a century of life to a young slum dweller named Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) before killing himself. Will soon becomes the subject of a murder investigation, and hides among the elites in an effort to clear his name (and inflict some damage on the system that holds so many people hostage). He finds a partner in crime with Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), daughter of privilege whose abduction triggers a Patty Hearst-style change of heart.

The narrative soon settles into a Bonnie and Clyde scenario, with the pair finding love on the run as criminals and fugitives. It provides the storyline with some mainstream energy and helps increase our rooting interest in the hero. Timberlake proves once again that he has a movie star’s presence, and can make a go of characters like this quite agreeably. The cast’s real stand-out, however, is Cillian Murphy: playing the policeman in search of the fugitive couple and making an otherwise stock figure innately fascinating.

The subtext attains a great deal of resonance in our current economic environment, though it’s perhaps more overtly Marxist than it should be. Will fights for “time equality” while acknowledging that his efforts might not make as much of a difference as he pretends. Here, In Time runs into its biggest difficulties as the particulars of the system become unduly vague and the subtler message grows too heavy-handed for its own good. The film also flounders when trying to wrap itself up, settling for contrived ticking-clock clichés when it really could have done something extraordinary. The backstory department does little better, with some nonsense added about Will’s father just to give him some connection to his persecutor.

Despite that, In Time still summons more than enough assets to make the liabilities tolerable. Its biggest strength is a willingness to use science fiction as a sounding board for ideas rather than an excuse to indulge in empty spectacle. It does a lot of thinking about its scenario and the way it reflects our reality. More importantly, it asks its audience to follow suit: not to distract us, but to engage our opinions about serious things. That’s worth sitting through a little narrative nonsense; in fact, it’s worth a hell of a lot more than the modest amounts In Time asks of us. 


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6dra6on6 10/28/2011 3:12:27 PM

No sooner do I ask Rob why he won't do more than one review each week(over in the Puss n Boots review) he drops this review on us. "In my face! In my face! In my faaaace!!!!" Haha, thanks for the review Rob. Lmao!!!

zalder 10/28/2011 3:35:20 PM

As you people can see he doesn't hate movies...he just hates dumb movies.  Puss in boots can be entertaining but still thought provoking is better than entertining any day.

monkeyfoot 10/28/2011 5:07:58 PM

I wonder what happened to the lawsuit  Harlan Ellison had trying to stop this movie? He alleged that it was stolen from his short story "Repent, Harlequin said the TickTockman!" An early review from a critic even thought it was based on the story. Since the movie has made it out, it looks like Ellison is not having the good luck he had against The Terminator.

mellowdoux 10/28/2011 7:48:51 PM

 Ticker ticker tock

Ti-cka ti-cka tock

Clock stikes twelve

Clock strikes one.

Smoking gun got these fools on the run...

Wyldstaar 10/28/2011 9:18:03 PM

The more money the film makes, the better the potential take for Harlan Ellison in a settlement.  If I had to venture a guess, I'd say his lawyer didn't try very hard to prevent the movie from being made.  No film, no payoff.

gauleyboy420 10/29/2011 1:03:31 PM

based on commercials and Robs review I might check this out tonight

MrEvil 10/29/2011 1:26:41 PM

Well, gee, Rob liked this movie. Maybe some commenters here will stop their over-generalizations about him, but I doubt it.

This movie does look intriguing, though I'll probably wait until the DVD comes out.

Wyldstaar 10/29/2011 2:18:07 PM

Just got back from seeing In Time, and it was very good.  I'd have to agree with most of his criticisms, especially regarding Will's father.  His mother was more than enough motivation to drive him to his destiny.  I was surprised at how little trouble I had adapting to the odd way the world of the film works, and the numerous suspensions of disbelief that were required.  To me, that says a lot about the quality of the story.  If it's able to suck you in despite all the things that don't really add up, you've done a good job.

Mayhem101878 10/29/2011 10:45:58 PM

Funniest thing is I actually came up with a sorta concept on how it might work. It's a stretch but what if at birth everyone was injected with an RFID tag that was tole not to start it's count down until 25 years after it's activation.

I know it's a stretch but it's the closest I could come up with that could make the whole time thing plausable.

dojen1 10/30/2011 4:19:31 AM

I enjoyed the comments on Harlon Ellison, who quit writing years ago to take up a new career suing people for plagiarizing his many fine works. Filmmakers: isn't it time for movies based on Ellison's "Along the Scenic Route"? "The Discraded"? Or better yet, "Santa Claus versus S.P.I.D.E.R."? Just try giving him credit and cutting him a check for once.

This movie holds no interest for me. Maybe its Timberlake; I don't know.  Its release probably means that faithful adaptation of "Logan's Run" won't be coming along anytime soon. 

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