×

In Time

A fascinating philosophical conceit delivered as a slick, hyper-stylized conspiracy yarn, juicy enough to deliver on both fronts, provided you don't ask too many questions.

With:
Sylvia Weis - Amanda Seyfried
Will Salas - Justin Timberlake
Raymond Leon - Cillian Murphy
Philippe Weis - Vincent Kartheiser
Rachel Salas - Olivia Wilde

A tightrope walk between inspired high-concept storytelling and near-agonizing obviousness, Andrew Niccol’s “In Time” takes place in a retro dimension where everyone is 25 ’til the day they die. Time is money as the rich measure their wealth in centuries while the poor scrape by for a few extra minutes, all painfully aware that life ends the second their accounts run empty. It’s a fascinating philosophical conceit delivered as a slick, hyper-stylized conspiracy yarn, juicy enough to deliver on both fronts, provided you don’t ask too many questions. Interest should sync with that of recent sci-fiers “The Adjustment Bureau” and “Source Code.”

In a return to the elegant, streamlined view of the future presented in “Gattaca” and “The Truman Show” — or perhaps some parallel universe, where the continents are shaped like ours and no matter where you go, everything looks like Los Angeles — writer-director Niccol turns back the clock a dozen years, effectively erasing the disappointment of his intervening efforts, “Simone” and “Lord of War.”

The way it works, citizens are divided into time zones according to class. In the ghetto, guys like Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) live hour-to-hour, keeping a careful eye on the bright green life-expectancy timers embedded in their forearms. The most reliable way to buy themselves more time is to spend some it on the job, though renegades (such as Alex Pettyfer’s dandy-dressing, English-accented gangster) run around robbing people for a few hours.

Nobody walks in the ghetto; time is far too precious. In the more upscale time zones, however, it’s a different story: Leisure is a way of life, bought at the expense of the working poor — a lesson Will learns when a suicidal chap (Matt Bomer) with a century on his clock whispers a few big secrets before taking a tumble off the nearest bridge. In true Hitchcockian fashion, innocent Will has no way to explain how he acquired 100-plus years, a situation that puts him on the lam from a squad of officious time keepers led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy).

As science fiction goes, “In Time” is the type that alters a few intriguing variables while otherwise preserving enough of the real world to illuminate aspects of our current system we don’t normally consider. Niccol’s intriguing concept hinges on the ability to stop aging at the quarter-century mark and to sustain the body in mint condition as long as its owner can “afford” it.

But the idea of time as money has real currency at a moment when world events have shaken the foundations of a paper-based banking system, just as the film’s central inequity — which finds Philippe Weis (“Mad Men’s” boyishly smarmy Vincent Kartheiser) exploiting the poor to feed his own immortality — echoes the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street crowd.

Thanks to a stellar below-the-line team that includes d.p. Roger Deakins, production designer Alex McDowell and costume designer Colleen Atwood, “In Time” looks like “Gattaca,” though the story is far more intricate and the action considerably more complex. With a major assist from second-unit action guru David M. Leitch, Niccol stages shootouts and chase scenes that take full advantage of Timberlake’s action-hero potential, pairing him with red-wigged Amanda Seyfried as Weis’ daughter, Sylvia, a hostage-turned-accomplice in Will’s efforts to upset the system.

But the helmer is too much in love with his own ideas, indulging every little play on words (Pettyfer: “I’d say your money or your life, but your money is your life”). He’s incredibly surface-oriented, which makes for meticulous compositions amid beautiful environments, but causes problems in casting, especially since Niccol doesn’t handle actors well, however perfect their cheekbones may be.

A rugged 30, Timberlake deepens his usually reedy voice, suggesting that time is harder on those in the working class. For the most part, side players fare less convincingly. Olivia Wilde is particularly ill-used, except to guarantee a laugh at the film’s opening line (“Hi, Mom”), while model-looking extras are left to flail awkwardly on the sidelines.

Still, the premise is rich enough to engage, making it easy to forgive Niccol’s indulgences. What other studio director would have the nerve to counter Ayn Rand on her own turf, packaging a sure-footed lefty parable as genre entertainment? Though not exactly a rallying cry for the cause, “In Time” serves as two hours well spent for those bullied by the system and looking to let off some steam.

In Time

Production: A 20th Century Fox release of a Regency Enterprises presentation of a New Regency/Strike Entertainment production. Produced by Andrew Niccol, Eric Newman, Marc Abraham. Executive producers, Arnon Milchan, Hutch Parker, Bob Harper, Andrew Z. Davis, Kristel Laiblin, Amy Israel. Co-producer, Debra James. Directed, written by Andrew Niccol.

Crew: Camera (widescreen, Deluxe color), Roger Deakins; editor, Zach Staenberg; music, Craig Armstrong; production designer, Alex McDowell; art directors, Priscilla Elliott, Todd Cherniawsky, Chris Farmer; set decorator, Karen O'Hara; costume designer, Colleen Atwood; sound (Dolby/Datasat), Ed Novick; supervising sound editors, Richard King, Michael Babcock; re-recording mixers, Paul Massey, David Giammarco; special effects supervisor, Matt Sweeney; visual effects supervisor, Ellen M. Somers; visual effects, Soho VFX, Luma Pictures; stunt coordinator, David M. Leitch; second unit director, Leitch; second unit camera, Paul Hughen; assistant director, Lars P. Winther; casting, Denise Chamian. Reviewed at Fox Studios, Los Angeles, Oct. 25, 2011. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 109 MIN.
Secondary Cast: With: Matt Bomer, Johnny Galecki, Collins Pennie, Toby Hemingway, Brendan Miller, Yaya DaCosta, Alex Pettyfer.

With: Sylvia Weis - Amanda Seyfried
Will Salas - Justin Timberlake
Raymond Leon - Cillian Murphy
Philippe Weis - Vincent Kartheiser
Rachel Salas - Olivia Wilde

More Film

  • For web story

    Transgender Immigrant Pic 'Lingua Franca,' Thriller 'Only Beasts' to Bow at Venice Days

    New York-based Filipina filmmaker Isabel Sandoval’s “Lingua Franca,” about a transgender immigrant, is among 11 competition entries, all world premieres, that will launch from the Venice Film Festival’s independently run Venice Days section. The only U.S. entry set to compete in the section modeled on Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight, “Lingua Franca” is Sandoval’s third work. It [...]

  • Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big

    Female-Led and LGBTQ Narratives Win Big At Durban FilmMart Awards

    DURBAN–Female-driven narratives and daring portraits of queer culture around the continent were the big winners at this year’s Durban FilmMart (DFM), the industry program of the Durban Intl. Film Festival, which handed out awards at a ceremony Monday night at the Southern Sun Maharani Hotel. Among the prize-winners were the story of a Zimbabwean woman [...]

  • Oscar Nominations Reactions Phyllis Nagy

    Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy Runs for Writers Guild Presidency, Citing Agency Stalemate

    Oscar-nominated screenwriter Phyllis Nagy is challenging Writers Guild of America West’s incumbent president David Goodman, citing his handling of the bitter stalemate between the WGA and Hollywood agents. Nagy announced her candidacy online Monday night, a day before the deadline for filing. She made the announcement  in a private online group as part of Writers for [...]

  • Klaudia-Reynicke

    Locarno: Summerside Picks Up ‘Love Me Tender’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rome-based Summerside Intl. has acquired international sales rights to Klaudia Reynicke’s “Love Me Tender.” The second feature from Peru-born and Switzerland-based filmmaker will receive its world premiere at the Locarno Festival in its Filmmakers of the Present competition, which focuses on first and second features. Summerside Intl. is the world sales agent, excluding and Lichtenstein [...]

  • Elsie Fisher and Bo Burnham2019 Writers

    Writers Guild Announces 2020 Awards Show Date

    The 72nd Annual Writers Guild Awards will take place in coinciding ceremonies in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton and the Edison Ballroom in New York on Feb. 1, the Writers Guild of America announced. The WGA will begin voting in November and will reveal this year’s TV nominees Dec. 5 and film Jan. 6. [...]

  • Tarantino Movies Ranked Illustration

    All of Quentin Tarantino's Movies Ranked

    In the history of cinema, has any director done more to elevate the idea of movies as cool than Quentin Tarantino? Certainly, the idea that films could be made by fans dates back at least to the French New Wave, when a group of die-hard critics stepped behind the camera. A few years later, Spielberg, [...]

  • A Stranger on the Beach

    Anonymous Content Wins Film Rights to Michele Campbell's 'A Stranger on the Beach' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anonymous Content has won the adaptive rights to the forthcoming Michele Campbell novel “A Stranger on the Beach.” In a competitive situation, Anonymous outbid multiple players for the thriller, which it will adapt for the big screen with in-house producers Alex Goldstone and Rosalie Swedlin. “Stranger” has been likened to sensual thrillers like “Fatal Attraction” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content