In Time is a slick, bright, and fast paced sci-fi action movie directed by Andrew Niccol of Gattaca fame. It falls into the dystopian future sub-section of Sci-fi, and uses a sort of Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood framework. It is set in the near future, with a look that draws from different eras of clothing and style. This creates a solid atmosphere that isn't gritty like most of the other movies of this genre. This cleaned up style is reminiscent of a Michael Bay movie, but it manages to not lose the integrity of being a hard science fiction story. It asks hard questions of its viewers, and has an extremely relevant message of corporate and governmental corruption.
The background is semi-typical for this genre, but no less interesting. Through the perfection of genetic engineering, everyone is born with a life span of exactly twenty-six years. A second past your twenty fifth birthday, your final year begins to count down and you stop aging. This time is measured on an organic digital display embedded on your left forearm that everyone is born with. Where it gets interesting is how this time can be traded, with a simple, nearly instantaneous handshake. Because of this startlingly cruel technology, all forms of currency are now based on numerical values that literally represent life. With everyone perpetually young, there is no indicator of age. You keep living until your counter runs out, or you die a violent death. In a world of immortals, there is no real growth. This is where the real meat of the story hinges its drama on, the concept of endless stagnation. It is a remarkably high concept that was handled with a bit of a heavy hand. Yet it manages to not be preachy, while using transparent allegories of present day problems.
The cast is solid. Justin Timberlake (Will Salas) is a serviceable lead who is both likeable and believable. Which might sound like I'm damning him with faint praise. But he has the thankless job of being the hero, which he does quite nicely, and I was pleasantly surprised how well he carried the emotional weight of the movie. Some of the plot elements that could be considered plot holes are filled in by some fascinating ideas of simple class barriers. The poor are used to running, and exerting themselves. The rich look pretty, but are so complacent and slow that they have become fairly fragile. Even our young heroine Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), who starts off as an emotionally abused rich girl, isn't as physically fast as our hero, so he ends up dragging her around for a good portion of the film. Cillian Murphy has a great part as the cop chasing them. His motivations and determination drive a lot of the tension of the story. Which could've easily turned into a long chase sequence, but thankfully didn't.
There is so much nuance to this movie. With so many neat tidbits, I find myself having trouble choosing a single thing to point out. So here are some of my favorite details:
-- Cops are called Time Keepers
-- The countries and cities are separated into Zones which are blocked off with barriers that require time to pass through.
-- The wealthy district is called Greenwich.
-- The local Mission has a sign that says "Out of Time", and the "Out of" goes out when there are hand outs. The guy working at the mission uses his own time to save people.
-- Dying is called Timing Out.
-- Being born into wealth is referred to as coming from Time.
-- The movie plays with the reverse of the old "Needs of the Many" dynamic. More than one character refers to this idea that to achieve immortality, the lives of the many must be sacrificed for the benefit of the few.
-- The local gang are called the Minutemen.
-- On a giant digital display of the world stock market, the changing of currency is represented with hour glass icons.
The problem with hard science fiction is that it is difficult for some people to understand. Wrapping this kind of story in accessible action and pretty faces softens its cerebral nature. The result? It isn't perfect, but it is definitely enjoyable.
I'd give it 3 out of 4 portable automatic teller machines filled with endless time.
J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.