In Time (2011)

“For a few to be immortal, many must die.”

Justin’s rating: Six weeks, two days, and thirteen minutes

Justin’s review: Both science fiction and horror share a common freedom, which is the ability to come up with bizarre circumstances and then insert characters into it to see how it plays out. One is just more bloody than the other, but make no mistake — one could be the other quite easily. And sometimes those premises don’t make a whole lot of sense in the setup, but you accept them just to see what happens next.

In Time’s premise seems like it might be better fodder for a Twilight Zone, but it works just as well in a feature film format. In a world where everyone’s genetically engineered to stay at the age of 25 forever, there’s only one catch: Everyone’s got a timer on their arm counting down to an instant death. Unless you can earn, steal, or collect more time, your number will come up quick. That’s somehow resulted in a world where there’s no middle class, just the super-poor eeking out a day-to-day existence and the super-rich who are living practically forever.

Yeah, I think there’s some ham-handed social commentary at play here.

Will (Justin Timberlake) is one of the very poor who loses his mother to “time out” and is given the gift of over a century of additional life on the same day. Angry at the inequality and the deliberate genocide of the poor, he decides to infiltrate the posh society and see if he can Hunger Games his way to a social revolution. In the rich part of town, he falls in with Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), who becomes that hoary staple of combination love interest and rich girl hostage.

As I said, part of the fun of crazy setups like this is to see what story happens along the way. Unfortunately, In Time isn’t as focused or creative in this as its premise. When you shave off the bickering social commentary and everyone screaming that “we only have minutes to live!” we are left with a messy chase thriller where our hero isn’t as bright as we’d like him to be and his foes aren’t as entertaining as they really should be.

Really, what they do here with this premise is perhaps the least imaginative tale they could have told in this world. There are moments, flashes, of promise when the characters show insight into what living with a visible timer counting down to your death does to how you live and interact with everyone else. I just wanted more of that. While the characters try to convince you that crashing the system is what should be done, you’re like, “No thanks, I kind of want to see more of how all of this works. Keep on keeping on, movie!”

Even though In Time doesn’t rise quite as high as I was hoping, it’s certainly not a wasted effort. There’s a whole lot of attention paid to detail, and the movie looks good overall. Justin Timberlake has actually turned out to be a fine actor in his own right, which isn’t something I can say about many musicians who head to Hollywood. And if the story isn’t high literature, at least the premise is worth the price — and time — of admission.

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