In Time (and Out Of Luck)

The Boy’s weakness is popcorn so we sometimes end up going to the movies even when there’s nothing to see. The choices this week were between Tower Heist and In Time. The Flower wants to see Tower Heist but I refused to take The Boy to see that on the grounds that I don’t want to listen to him rant about it for the next day.

In Time is written, produced and directed by Andrew Niccol who also did Gattaca. Now, I’ve seen Gattaca but I didn’t really remember it well. I know that people think it’s a pretty intelligent sci-fi, so I thought this might be similar.

Well, the good news for Gattaca fans is this is extremely similar. The bad news is that means it’s extremely contrived, kind of dull and frankly kind of stupid. The good news is it’s well shot, romantic and occasionally insightful.

Did I mention contrived?

The premise, literally, is that time is money. People buy stuff with time. They work for time. And, the crux of the movie, some have lots more time than others. Also: When you run out of time, you die.

Everyone starts with one year on their clock (shown in handy digital format on your forearm), which starts at the age of 25. At 25, you stop aging completely, but if your clock ever runs out, you die. (And if your clock never runs out, you never die.) The ghetto people are constantly scrabbling for enough time to make it through the next day, while the prices for everything constantly go up.

When we meet our hero, Will (Justin Timberlake), he’s celebrating his mother’s 50th birthday. His mother is Olivia Wilde, so that’s weird. Anyway, Will is a stand-up guy who shares his time with his mom, and ends up saving the life of a guy walking around in the ghetto with 100 years on his arm before a bunch of thugs kill him. Will sets out to get some social justice, and there’s your movie.

Oh, and he meets rich girl, Amanda Seyfried, who I think is the only actor in the film who is actually 25. And, yeah, at 35, Cillian Murphy as the copy out to get Will is an awful hard 25.

There are some good parts to the movie. The poor people are constantly running around while the rich people move with not just deliberate slowness but with caution, since they’re immortal as long as they don’t die in an accident or violent act. There were occasional touches like that had a certain kind of profound resonance.

These are totally overwhelmed by the stupid, though. If you really had 26 years to live, you’d start accumulating time as soon as you could. People in the movie are constantly cutting it close, down to the second, and gratuitously so. Suffice to say, you wouldn’t do that. No one would. The chance for a minor snafu to result in death—well, it happens all over the place in this movie, and it’s just not plausible.

Then there’s the question of where the time comes from. It’s not really explained at all. At one point, one of the characters is revealed to have a million years. If everyone starts with a year, though, that would mean a million people had to die at 25 just to accumulate that one million, which is just one of many millions the man is presumed to have.

That’s not really workable.

But if the time isn’t intrinsic (drawn from living people) then it must be extrinsic, and thereby create-able. That would make more sense and a better parallel with money as we currently know it, but it would undermine the premise of the movie.

But then, the movie undermines its own premise at every turn. Murphy’s cop is obsessed with the notion that Will is going to destroy the system with his newfound wealth. Yet, at one point, he delivers a speech clearly designed as an attack on our current system: Basically, the people support the system because they think they might one day become super-wealthy with time, but there’s no actual chance of that.

Well, okay, but if it’s true that people support the system because they have that hope, then shouldn’t someone occasionally make it? Wouldn’t Will’s success be supportive of the system, just like the occasional American’s success causes us all to support the awful American system even though it’s all rigged against us. (And, yeah, this basically comes off as an anti-western civilization flick.)

Contradictions, holes, and stupidity is all well and good, but the movie is polluted with time puns, too. People live in “time zones”. Thugs who steal time from others are “minute men”. The cops are “time keepers”. People constantly say “I finally had the time to …” meaning they literally had some money to spend.

On top of that, the movie manages to be dull. I’m not even sure how. I think it’s all the contrivance. Like a lot of the superhero movies where the battles just seem to go on till the director gets bored but the audience was bored all along because it’s all so obvious.

Timberlake is good. He radiates good-guy-ness. (I know a lot of people hate this guy but they also seem to begrudgingly admit he’s good, and he is.) I’m not sure Olivia Wilde and he pull of a maternal relationship, but it’s so incongruous it’s hard to tell. Cillian Murphy is good, as always, and the only one whose character development has a certain element of surprise to it.

I’m not a big fan of Amanda Seyfried (I don’t dislike her but I don’t get her recent super success) but she’s surprisingly appealing as the spoiled rich girl.

Anyway, I didn’t avoid a Boy Rant. He hated it with a white-hot passion. Claimed it was worse than Atonement, which is kind of our barometer for bad movie-making. Atonement was only populated by icky people versus the stupid here.

The popcorn was good though. And comped. So there’s that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.