Monday, March 12, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—In Time (2011) **½

PG-13, 109 min.
Director/Writer: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Alex Pettyfer, Collins Pennie, Johnny Galecki, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer

The films of Andrew Niccol are bold commentaries on our world told through genres in which he builds distinct worlds. His two most successful films are the sc-fi noir “Gattaca” and the Peter Weir helmed “The Truman Show”. Like those films, his latest “In Time” gives us a not too distant future in which some major part of our society is severely altered from what we know today—although the reality show obsessed world of “The Truman Show” seems dangerously close to becoming a reality now.

In this future, people are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. From that point, they are given one year to live which is displayed in a digital readout countdown on their arms. The currency in this future is time; and people can buy, trade, or steal time to live longer. They must also spend time on everything from bus fare, to drinks, to sex, to… well, anything we pay money for. The classes are separated by those who are born with time and those who must live day to day. The lower classes are controlled by interest rates on time loans they must take out to survive. If they start getting control of their time, the interest rates go up.  Those born with time have immortality handed to them. Those without have an increasingly difficult time maintaining the clocks with extra minutes.

One result of this way of life is that all adults look the same age. Mothers and sons look like brothers and sisters. The classes are separated by time zones, so it can be carefully monitored when people move from one to the other to cut down on major time stealing crimes. Niccol does an amazing job building his future world through the details that make up these people’s lives, but some elements get away from him. The police are called timekeepers, and it would seem their headquarters exist in every time zone at once. There is also the question of the servants in the highest society time zones. If they were from that time zone, they wouldn’t need to be servants. If they were from another time zone, they wouldn’t be able to afford to exist in the affluent time zone to perform their jobs.

The movie is has tense action and its leads, Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfired look good and are compelling to watch. Something about the whole set up just doesn’t ring true, however. With the restrictions Niccol puts in place in this world, the fugitives move too freely and too conveniently to achieve their goals. And their Robin Hood cause seems unlikely in a world built upon so much greed. Where are the Joe the Plumbers who are too willing to fight for the classes they falsely believe they can have a part of? I suppose the timekeeper played by Cillian Murphy is sort of the Sherriff of Nottingham here, but his reasons for doing what he does are too obviously vague.

One note: The ocean seems to be a great liberation symbol for Niccol, who seems to have at least one scene involving the ocean in every movie he makes. Here the ocean isn’t used quite as prominently as it is in “Gattaca” or “The Truman Show”, but it’s purpose is still the same. It shows the Seyfried character what freedom really is in life. Without this ocean scene, none of the rest of the movie is possible.

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