by Cherszy (@cherszy)
“4 hours for a cup of coffee?”
You can complain about that in the near future where, according to Andrew Niccol’s prediction, our monetary currencies will be consumed by the hands of time – literally. Dollars and euros will lose their high values. Instead, seconds and minutes are what will make the world go round.
In this future presented by In Time, every person’s clock has been genetically designed to stop at 25 years old – that’s the oldest you’ll get in terms of physical appearance but not age-wise in real time. Each is then given an extensible one year to continue living, and when the time on your arm expires, so does your existence. When the digits drop to zero, one’s life detonates like a silent bomb.
Time is the new money in this particular era – you earn it and you spend it. How will you budget this new currency to keep yourself alive? But, more than introducing a possibility of a shift in economic standards which is more frightening than relieving, the film tackles the pressing issue of social stratification – in a manner which is unfortunately too dragging to follow.
While time may have replaced money as the standard for natural selection, the survival arena remains to be unchanged where whoever’s richer gets a bigger shot at immortality while the poor can only continue to struggle for an additional minute or two. While the elite casually throw their bets of 1000 years in the poker table inside the private time zone called New Greenwich, the poor – including 28-year-old Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and his mom (Olivia Wilde) – arduously bargain through their limited lifespan in the shabby ghetto.
However, such a system is about to change with one unexpected twist of fate as Will finds himself inheriting a large hourglass of time from ‘millennium-naire’ Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who has become so weary of life at 105 years old. With his newfound wealth, the young new heir then embarks on a mission to right some wrongs in the society as he becomes the Robin Hood of the future in In Time.
With such a fresh sci-fi premise, it is a pity that In Time seemed to scratch only the surface of the concept instead of expanding its web of possibilities. We would have appreciated some back-story. It really would have been more interesting if Niccol had experimented with the idea and explored other creative means of presenting the story rather than simply using this flick as a platform for addressing the issues of the current society. While the ideas being put forth in the dialogues of the characters with regard to the injustice of the world are undoubtedly intriguing and worth reflecting on, these – in my humble opinion – would have been more fitting on paper than on screen. The philosophy being put forward seemed to have transformed the film into, sad to say, more of a preach-a-thon than a marathon that kept our hearts racing.
While the road chases between Raymond and Will may be the icebreakers we are definitely grateful for, the frenzy easily switches back to the dull aura. There seems to be very little in the film that causes excitement, sadly. Not even the moments of danger give a shiver or enough a reason for one to stay at the edge of his/her seat. To some extent, the storyline’s a little bit too simple that every scene is as predictable as a prank on April Fools’ Day. A twist in the script would have been a wonderful addition, but Niccol played it quite safe.
Surprisingly enough, not even the intimate scenes between Will and Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), his girlfriend whom he kidnapped from her ‘eon-naire’ father, sparked excitement. There is admittedly zero chemistry between Timberlake and Seyfried. Partners in crime? Yes. The next Jack and Rose (Titanic)? No way. Not that it was painful to watch them get all romantic; it’s just that it was clear that they didn’t look adorably cheesy together (all future romantic comedy casting directors should definitely take this note down).
The individual performances of both Timberlake and Seyfried may not be as insipid as their onscreen romance, but I can say that I’ve seen better performances from both in their respective past films. Timberlake has that coolness around him that makes Will suave, but he lacks the aggressiveness that would have made his character a better and a more exciting rebel. Seyfried, on the other hand, portrays her character of a good girl gone bad in a manner that’s convincing enough. However, her performance is rather weak such that her character is easily shadowed by the others, even by the minor ones. To some extent, Sylvia Weis has gone from a major, central character to one that act as a female sidekick Will Salas can do without – more like a ‘character for display’ like how Megan Fox’s character, Mikaela Banes, in Transformers was. The sophistication of the character was somehow lost due to both the simplicity of the character buildup in the storyline and the weak portrayal of the character.
Capturing my attention, on the other hand, was Cillian Murphy who did a fantastic job of making Raymond Leon a character whom one will fall in love with in the first minute and hate in the next. The calm yet anxious attitude of his made the character mysterious and interesting. Murphy simply makes one look forward to the conflict and drama that surround his character with his incredible acting skills. Another actor worth commending is Vincent Kartheiser, who plays the ‘eon-naire’ Philippe Weis. His arrogance simply speaks for his character – absolutely loathsome which makes his portrayal absolutely perfect.
As the ringleader of the infamous time bandits called ‘Minute Men’, Alex Pettyfer, who plays Fortis, showed some amazing potential as a villain although he could have pushed his braggadocio further. There were hints of hesitation. Nevertheless, he has given a very convincing performance as a protagonist one can only love to hate.
With an auspicious plot but a weak script and with a pool of talented actors but underdeveloped character profiles, In Time may not be the greatest investment of one’s 110 minutes (although the 37% rating in Rotten Tomatoes is quite ruthless – I don’t think I would say that it’s that bad). Nevertheless, it’s worth a watch for a lazy night’s sake.
Hopefully, the open ending paves the way for a more complex storyline to unfold – one that’ll get us hooked in the sequel. Well, we’ll know about that. In time.