**1/2 (out of 5)
October 28, 2011
Justin Timberlake as WILL SALAS
Amanda Seyfried as SYLVIA WEIS
Alex Pettyfer as FORTIS
Cillian Murphy as RAYMOND LEON
Olivia Wilde as RACHEL SALAS
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
The best part about Andrew Niccol’s new dark sci-fi thriller “In Time” isn’t anything about watching the movie, but rather how the movie feels. Kind of like having sex for the first time, “In Time” is more entertaining to think and reminisce about than it is to actually experience. Because only in that mind’s-eye retrospective does it lose all of the awkwardness and poor execution.
The story takes place in a dystopian future where people are genetically engineered to not age past 25. However, there is a time stamp embedded in their arm that keeps counting down to their dying day. Thus, people’s seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years are the new currency. Most of the population is running on borrowed time – literally – as they struggle to survive day to day. The rich, however, hoard the time to the tune of millions of years. One worker in the ghetto is given the opportunity to infiltrate the rich, and he hatches a plan to bring time equality to the masses.
There are some elements to “In Time” that are really quite impressive. Like Niccol’s other films, it has a slick and solid look to it. There’s a retro-future vibe to the whole movie that gives the viewer the impression that you’re actually watching something better than you are. This mix of contemporary and futuristic allows the story to be grounded a bit and relateable to the audience.
Likewise, Justin Timberlake does a decent job with what he’s been given. It’s clear this was a proving ground for him, whether he can carry a film on his own. I’m doubtful this will become a hit by any definition, but I don’t blame Timberlake for this. He’s a good actor in his own right, and he deserves something better.
The rest of the cast is clearly slumming it. The normally charming Amanda Seyfried seems bored and annoyed throughout the film. Cillian Murphy phones in all of his scenes. In fact, the only person besides Timberlake who seems to give a damn about actually putting some performance on screen is Alex Pettyfer, and he’s just another pretty face who can sort of act.
Niccol is a fine writer, but you wouldn’t know it by this film. The dialogue ranges from mediocre to absolute garbage, and the actors (even the weak ones) look like they can’t get the bad taste of it from their mouths. Puns about “time” are thrown around like dollar bills at a strip club, and the premise itself barely holds up from scene to scene.
That’s not to say the idea isn’t sound. In fact, Harlan Ellison tried to get an injunction against this film, claiming they ripped off his idea from “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman,” so that’s in good company, I suppose. But it’s the set-up in the film, the appearance of how to control the commodity of time that never quite plays out right.
It’s clear that Niccol is making an obvious connection to the financial inequalities in this country, and in the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement, this should have a certain appeal. However, it is so blatantly shoved down the viewer’s throat that any form of artistic merit is lost.
Still, there’s a certain level of enjoyability to this film. It falls in the realm of mediocre sci-fi movies that you might watch on cable late in the evening. I’m talking about films like “Freejack,” “Surrogates” and “Demolition Man.” They’re forgettable and cheesy, but they’re not a waste of time. (Okay… I couldn’t resist saying that.)