Justin Timberlake ventured once again into the world of movies with In Time, a futuristic sci-fi thriller co-starring Amanda Seyfried. Built on the interesting and novel premise of a world where time is literally money, In Time is a wholly entertaining film but falls just short of being a memorable sci-fi thriller because of its simplistic plot and one-dimensional characters.
In this dystopian world, everyone stops physical aging at 25 years old, retaining their youthful appearance for the rest of their natural lives. Unfortunately, in order to control overpopulation the government has implemented a system where after each person turns 25, they are given only one year of time to either earn more time and keep living or run out of time and die. The rich can virtually live forever while the poor live day to day. In order to keep the classes separated the world is divided into time zones which are drastically different from the temporal time zones we have today. In director Andrew Niccol’s dystopian world, time zones are divided based on wealth. Because it literally costs years to travel from the poor time zones to the wealthy zones, upward class mobility is nonexistent.
Timberlake plays Mark Salas, a factory worker from one of the poorest time zones, Dayton. He lives with his mother Rachel, played by Olivia Wilde. They are constantly struggling to make ends meet, counting minutes and seconds and working long shifts every day. It is all they know, because everyone else in their time zone is in the exact same situation. The streets are littered with the bodies of unfortunate people who ran out of time.
One day Salas is unwinding at a bar after work when he encounters a wealthy man named Henry Hamilton, played by Matt Bomer. He is 105 years old and has 116 years on his clock, something that is virtually unheard of in Dayton. After Salas helps him escape from “minute-men” thugs who steal other people’s time, Hamilton repays him by opening Salas’s eyes to his futile condition and the real reason why there are such strict time zones, which has a lot to do with the wealthy class being greedy.
He then commits suicide, but not before giving all of his time to Salas. Enraged by the revelations and further spurred by the untimely death of his mother, Salas decides to put his newfound time to good use and journey to New Greenwich, the richest time zone, in order to enact his revenge.
Unfortunately, things don’t go quite according to plan because the society’s policemen, or “time keepers,” are onto Salas’ trail. Their leader, played by Cillian Murphy, is tracking what happened to the wealthy Henry Hamilton and he believes that Salas stole his time and murdered him. Salas is able to escape by kidnapping the daughter of Phillip Weis, played Vincent Kartheiser, a billionaire time lender.
Sylvia Weis, played by Seyfried, has grown bored with her pampered lifestyle that prohibits any form of danger or adventure in the pursuit of immortality. She readily embarks on a Bonnie and Clyde-esque adventure with Salas, along with some Robin Hood antics thrown in.
Timberlake did a good job of further breaking out of his pop star mold in this film, and although his nice-guy image is hard to shake, he is fairly believable as a rogue action star. Oliva Wilde had a small but memorable role as his 58-year-old mother, and one of her scenes is easily one of the most poignant and moving of the whole film.
Murphy’s character was particularly complex, as they hinted that he himself had escaped the clutches of the lowest time zone, although it was disappointing that they chose not to further develop that. Additionally, Seyfried’s character wasn’t given much character development either, besides a few throwaway lines about being tired of her pampered life.
Another weak point was the overly simplified plot line. Presumably the story is an allegory to society today, which is extremely relevant in light of all the protesting and demonstrations going on in New York. If they had further developed this allegory it could have been an interesting social commentary, however, they chose instead to present it as black and white with an overly simple solution that has little bearing on real life.
Overall, this movie could have been great, but because of plot simplification and under-developed characters it stopped just short. The premise was extremely new and innovative, and it was unfortunate that they didn’t spend a little more time filling it out. Regardless, it is an entertaining film that sci-fi lovers should be sure to check out.