Does In Time hit the mark, or miss the point?
What happens when all disease is cured, but your life is literally measured in how many hours or minutes you have left? That’s the idea behind In Time, a futuristic thriller that attempts to send a political message about equity, poverty, and one man’s attempt to balance the scales. Think Gattaca meets Solient Green. In fact, In Time was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who also penned Gattaca. In this story, all disease has been wiped out, leaving humanity with an ever-growing population that the world cannot feed. Enter the devious idea that man will have to ‘buy’ time in order to continue living. After the age of 25, your ‘time’ begins ticking, which is displayed on your forearm. Want to add time to your ‘clock’? Just purchase more by working. Of course, you have to pay for food and living arrangements, all of which keep rising. Therein lies the problem: the rich live on, while the poor die off. Sounds like an all-too familiar comment on current society.
In Time has all the best intentions. It looks and sounds great, borrows good concepts from other films, and is pretty well cast; but ultimately it looks more like Bonnie & Clyde Meets Robin Hood than anything else. The story centers around a poor factory worker Will Silas (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network) who works too hard in the ghetto zone of Dayton and is ‘paid’ too little to rise above his poor upbringing. His mother, played by Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy) is late on the rent, with not enough ‘time’ to pay. She, like everyone else, have their looks frozen at 25. This makes ‘mom’ more like 50. When Will saves the wealthy Harry Hamilton (Matt Bomer, White Collar) from a bunch of thieves called The Minutemen, Harry decides he can no longer live; you see, he’s 105 and his arm is filled with more than a century of life left. After he and Silas give The Minutemen the slip, Harry decides to commit suicide, but not before gifting Silas 100 years of life while he sleeps. After Silas wakes up, Hamilton leaves a warning scrawled in the window: “Don’t Waste My Time.” In Time is littered with such cliches, to the point that you get weary of their constant use. Of course, no one believes Silas has been gifted the time, and a manhunt ensues, led by The Timekeeper Ramon Leon (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins). He’s been pursuing time bandits for 50 years, and supposedly knew Silas’ father who died fighting for more time. When Will’s mother runs out of time and dies in his arms, Silas decides it’s time to break the system.
Society is broken into zones, with the rich living comfortable lives, while the poor receive time ‘handouts’ at a local mission in another zone. Silas crosses zones into New Greenwich and meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfired, Mamma Mia!), whose 27 (‘2 years past 25’ as she calls it). Of course, the two fall in love as Silas is the perfect bad boy for Sylvia; no one takes chances in New Greenwich because they’re worried about dying prematurely and losing their time. Both decide to even the odds, and engage in an effort to give the poor zones all the time they need. Thus, our story degrades into the classic chase flick, with the Dayton residents celebrating each new robbery, and Syliva’s dad upping the ante with Leon giving chase. The problem here isn’t look: Niccol has that down, with cool clothes and hot rod cop cars. It’s the character development that’s missing, and it shows. We don’t feel happy or sad for Will and Sylvia; we know they’ll figure this out, even with a climatic ending that can been seen a mile away. The real problem comes when our Bonnie and Clyde realize that no one can be saved, that even if all the time in the world could be given to Dayton, the problem of time will always be a problem, because the government can simply raise prices to kill off more people. Rather than blowing up the whole system, which would have been far more interesting, Silas and Weis simply steal more time. Yawn…
Our characters are simply not given enough time to sell their stories. Timberlake and Seyfried do not have the chemistry to get us through tender scenes, although some involving Sylvia’s misuse of guns were genuinely funny. Timberlake is good, and will be a great actor if he can land better roles. Murphy’s tired cop routine gets old, especially near the end; and Olivia Wilde’s early death just doesn’t give us enough time to miss her. Had this film been at least 15 minutes longer, we could have invested more in these characters. Instead, any effect is lost.
If In Time suffers from critical and unavoidable errors of story, it exceeds in presenting a nice look for the audience. The film is presented in 1080p/AVC encoding which offers a crisp multi-layered picture with excellent colors and vivid detail. Tailored suits stand out next to unshaven faces, and even the zones all have different ‘looks’: Dayton is wrapped in an old, dirty brown scheme and New Greenwich is colorful but precise. The well-lit mansion scenes where Sylvia and Will first meet looks like something out of Eyes Wide Shut. This is a nice transfer, and will stand out on almost any hi-def platform.
In Time is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, which wraps the audience in a good, lossless audio track. Dialogue is easy to understand, and environmental effects (particularly those at the police station and on the streets of Dayton) are given a nice treatment in the rear speakers. There’s not a lot of special effort made here, but it’s enough to do the job. I really liked Craig Armstrong’s soundtrack, which delivers a powerful but appropriate feel. It’s soft when needed, but tough when action scenes require it. I will definitely be purchasing this soundtrack.
Once again, we are denied a quality release of supplements – at least all three are presented in HD. No commentary track appears, which would have been insightful. Instead, we are treated to the following:
• The Minutes (1080p, 16:35): An interesting, faux documentary about how the scientists discovered the gene which stopped the aging process.
• Deleted/Extended Scenes (1080p, 12:52): This features 10 extended versions of scenes from the film. Nothing remarkable here, except for the backstory of Will’s father.
• Sneak Peak (1080p, 14:13): Trailers for several upcoming releases, including This Means War and Immortals.
In Time could have been another Gattaca, which has grown on me in recent years. But, missed opportunities along the way and an unappealing set of special features makes this a ho-hum effort to say the least. However, the film looks and sounds great. If special features aren’t your thing, then you might enjoy this as a rental. Otherwise, I would skip it.