In Time, Andrew Niccol‘s return to the science fiction genre is a film that bites off more than it can chew. It dives face first into a concept that requires detail, support and a serious tone in order for it to fully work and In Time doesn’t oddly enough spend enough time on the parts that matter. Character development is lacking and the climax is lazy and disappointing. Only one positive thing comes out of In Time and that is the under-appreciated Cillian Murphy, who proves yet again why he should be starring in more films. He takes his routine character and adds troubled layers of conflicting emotions while still maintaining the bad ass vibe sporting a fast car and a leather jacket.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in a futuristic ghetto where time is currency. Once you hit 25 your body stops aging and you are given a year left to live. You work a lousy day job in exchange for mere hours on your life time clock. He’s 28 and he lives with his super-hot mom named Rachel (Olivia Wilde). In the ghetto life is never wasted, time is extremely hard to come by and Will and Rachel are in time debt up to their eyeballs and barely managing a day to day schedule. Will runs into Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer); a guy that mysteriously has hundreds of years on his clock.
Will notices Henry drinking and wasting away his time while time thieves led by a man named Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) approach. The time thieves make an attempt on Henry’s life and Will saves the day by helping the stranger escape, which eventually leads to another on-the-run science fiction film that deals with problems like immortality, the fear of death and appreciating what you have.
In Time follows Will as he runs from time thieves like Fortis and the corrupt police known as “Timekeepers”. The leader of the keepers is Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) and he just so happens to be the last honest keeper that can’t be bought. While Will runs from Raymond and Fortis he encounters several upper class or higher time zoned individuals like Sylvia West (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of one of the richest men in the world. Will and Sylvia have a somewhat strong bond for appreciating life, so naturally they become fugitives together and continue running from the law, thieves and rich people that don’t want to die.
Had In Time spent more time on detail, appreciating these subjects it could have easily turned out to be one of the better sci-fi films of 2011, but it plays everything really safe and too much on the big budget Hollywood side of things. The concept is originally interesting, but it soon becomes a joke in itself. Several key details on the transfer of time are left very hazy and uncooked. Things like “fighting” for time never really make sense. The lack of time transfer security is also so unbelievably unreal, it brings up things like not being able to trust anyone at any time of the day or night, yet it never fully embraces the problem.
The acting is also very hit or miss. Justin Timberlake plays the lead with a lack of charisma. His usual charm from films like The Social Network or Alpha Dog is nowhere to be found here. His character is eternally good and always willing to assist others before himself, but that doesn’t make for an interesting character. There is absolutely no edge in Will Salas. He’s predictable and boring.
Olivia Wilde chimes in for a few minutes at the beginning of the film and once you get over the fact that she plays his mother everything else is typical Wilde. She didn’t have much to work with, but she still managed to make it work. She sells the connection between her and Will the best and her closing minutes in the film do spark a small emotion and provide for reasoning to why Will does what he does.
The most surprising role in the film is that of Fortis, played by Alex Pettyfer. I’ve yet to see Pettyfer in something that doesn’t complete reek of ass. I Am Number Four was a complete joke and Beastly was terrible. Pettyfer for the most part doesn’t stink up In Time, playing the sleazy time stealer. The only problem with the character was the exact purpose, he doesn’t really serve a huge point to the greater story, but that isn’t Pettyfer’s fault. He does really well with very little and I applaud him for it.
Stealing the show is Cillian Murphy. He takes the typical good cop stuck with corrupt cop’s role and runs with it so fast and confidently. Raymond Leon is a conflicting character that can’t be simply described as the villain of the film. He is a major problem that Will has to deal with, but he’s doing everything for all the right reasons in his eyes. Murphy fully understands that, which makes it all the better. Why Cillian Murphy isn’t a household name yet is really puzzling because the guy is loaded with an indescribable amount of energy and raw talent. One of In Time‘s biggest problems is how they handle Murphy’s character at the end of the film. They completely fuck it up!
Amanda Seyfried does absolutely nothing with her semi-important role. She uses those big and beautiful eyes to stare at Timberlake with an empty face for the most part. Her dialogue delivery is at times confusing to decipher because she bounces from super serious to wisecrack joking like a kid with Tourette syndrome.
In Time is just a cluttered film that takes too much stuff to properly handle. It constantly switches from trying to be an emotional and serious science fiction film that deals with heavy problems that we all think of to a brainless sci-fi film that’s more interested in being flashy and funny. Either direction could have worked fine if director Andrew Niccol would have sat down and decided which tone was right for In Time, but the film instead tackles both moods resulting in a film that’s all over the place. Composer Craig Armstrong gives the film a unique musical score that is almost memorable and Roger Deakins gives the visuals an interesting look, but In Time‘s story and struggle with detail really weigh it down.
Certain things were given time and detail to help get across the bizarre concept while other things were poorly developed and just thrown out without much thought. Murphy and Pettyfer lead the cast in terms of performance quality while Timberlake and Seyfried prove that they aren’t leading material yet. In Time is an undercooked movie that just needs a little more time in the oven to fully develop and become something much better.
In Time – 7/10