With its saga of the impoverished masses rising up against a select few who are hoarding the lion’s share of wealth, “In Time” couldn’t be more suited to the Occupy movement that’s currently holding forth from coast to coast (and around the world).
But the riches, in this case, are measured in minutes and not in dollars — time is literally money in this world, and the fat-cats hoard millennia while the poor live from day to day.
Time, it would appear, doesn’t trickle down, either.
The wealthy keep eons stored away in banks, while the poor borrow months at high interest while avoiding the cops (Timekeepers) and hoods (Minutemen). And when the bright green ticking clock on your forearm reaches 00:00, then that’s all she wrote.
Will (Justin Timberlake) wakes up to celebrate the 50th birthday of his mother (Olivia Wilde — people stay 25 forever, get it?), and neither of them has a lot of time stored up. She’s paying off a loan while he trudges off to grunt work at a factory. And while the price of everything from bus fare to a cup of coffee goes up in their “time zone,” high roller Henry (Matt Bomer), who’s got more than a century on his arm, shows up at a dive bar to buy drinks for everyone.
He’s 110 years old and looking to end it all, but before the Minutemen can roll him for his remaining time, Will whisks him away and winds up being the beneficiary of Henry’s suicidal impulses. Will takes his newfound wealth to New Greenwich, where he bets it all at the casino and wins against magnate Philippe (Vincent Kartheiser), whose daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) has eyes for Will.
When the cops — led by Timekeeper Raymond (Cillian Murphy) — come after Will for killing Henry, he takes Sylvia hostage, and before long, the two become a temporal Bonnie and Clyde, stealing years from Philippe’s loan companies and giving them to the poor.
It’s more than a little surprising to see a movie, particularly one coming from a studio that’s owned by News Corp, that so flagrantly champions socialism. On more than one occasion, the film’s wealthy characters are told that everything they have is “stolen,” which is as close as I’ve heard a Hollywood movie come to saying “Property is theft” maybe ever.
But for all the film’s political chutzpah and savvy filtering of contemporary issues through sci-fi allegory, “In Time” is a pretty dopey movie.
Niccol has most of the important events of the film take place more than once so we’ll know what we’re seeing (and predict it) the second time around. If you’re a sucker for glossy, silly science fiction along the lines of the recent Bruce Willis bust “Surrogates,” however, you’ll ignore the clunky dialogue and over-earnest performances and have fun anyway.
“In Time” does at least offer up a slick retro-future, with old-school muscle cars switched up to be gleaming automobiles with whizzing power sources that sound more like KitchenAid mixers than internal-combustion engines.
Century City, some 40 years after “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” still looks like an urban center of the future, and the headquarters for Creative Artists Agency — known as the “death star” in the biz — finally gets its close-up as headquarters for the nefarious Philippe.
Timberlake neither shines nor embarrasses himself in the Everyman-hero role, but whoever thought putting the doe-eyed Seyfried into a Louise Brooks bob was a good idea should rethink his career choices. There’s something weird about the whole cast being in their mid-20s — the film has a certain “Bugsy Malone” vibe because of it — but there’s no better metaphor for Hollywood’s youth fixation than the sight of Olivia Wilde playing Justin Timberlake’s 50-year-old mother.
Perhaps the risible dialogue (so many time puns!) and over-the-top action set pieces are Niccol’s clever way of getting an audience to sit through a fairly audacious political allegory about the redistribution of wealth and the monstrous effects that unregulated capitalism can have on the working classes. If so, hats off. In the final wash, “In Time” may not be as well-crafted an ode to collectivism as “Salt of the Earth,” but the car chases are way better.