Even from the previews, it was obvious that In Time was going to be another one of those movies where a cool, sci-fi premise was going to be stretched over a weak story (cast with some attractive young actors), like The Adjustment Bureau, or Source Code. The idea in this story is that everyone is genetically programmed to stop aging at 25, then after that, they have a countdown of one year of life left. However, time is used as currency that can be traded from that point, and if you earn more time you can live longer. I found the premise very interesting (albeit a bit contrived). The ramifications of life as currency has some storytelling potential. In this world, the rich are virtually immortal and there are a whole slew of new industries (and crimes) that can result. Unfortunately, maybe this concept would have been better used as the backdrop for a TV series (I know I always say that — yay TV!) than a movie because there are so many different aspects of society that would change because of this shift. In a movie, we end up getting a slightly new spin on Bonnie and Clyde. Justin Timberlake (who was pretty good in The Social Network, but far less impressive in this film) plays Will Salas, an honest, hard-working guy who decides to turn anti-establishment when two events occur in his life: a suicidal rich man gives Will his remaining century of life, and Will’s mother “times out” in his arms when Will is too late to reach her. These two experiences send Will on a quest to get revenge on the society that allows the rich to live forever by literally sucking the life out of the poor. As a newly rich young man, Will heads to the wealthy zone of New Greenwich, where he eventually gains a new hostage/partner in rich girl Sylvia Weis (played by Amanda Seyfried). At his heels the whole time is the law enforcement “time keeper” (played by Cillian Murphy) who wants Will to answer for the supposed suicide of his rich benefactor.
As summaries go, the plot of this film still seems pretty good, unfortunately most of the movie either has Will and Sylvia running from the cops or other criminals, or sitting down in calm moments for those pseudo-intimate heart-to-heart chats. The element of science fiction that could have made this a more original story are cast aside for a pretty run of the mill “lovers on the run” type movie. In fact, the whole non-aging premise served only to add a cloud of creepiness to the movie, since fathers and daughters, mothers and sons all appear to be the same age. Also, the momentum of the movie comes mostly from the cops chasing after Will and Sylvia, but that is all predicated on a misunderstanding, since Will did not kill the rich man who gave him his time (the idea of which is even more lame because there was enough surveillance footage of the area to identify Will, but not enough to clear his name). Finally, from the ages of some of the characters, it appears that the establishment of this life/time-based economy has been in existence for around 100 years, but society still hasn’t adapted as much as would be expected in a century. Would people really leave themselves vulnerable to having their time taken so easily? Would people really find themselves running out of time in the middle of the street? Where are the time-based hospitals? Where is the social infrastructure around peoples’ time-based needs? Granted, it’s the movie’s contention that this is just a way for the rich to take advantage of the poor, but it seems that such a fundamental change has been played out rather simplistically by this movie. While I was pretty disappointed by this movie, it’s not really that bad once you accept that the premise is simply a gimmick. At worse, I’ve wasted less than two hours of my life watching it (which wouldn’t even be enough to buy Will a coffee). (3.5 out of 5)