It’s ironic that director Andrew Niccol’s (Gattaca) new film centres on the concept of trading time – you may just want someone to refund you the two hours wasted by watching it.
In Time is a film with a fantastic premise – a world operating under Ben Franklin’s adage of “Time is money”. People are bio-engineered to stop aging at 25, at which point their implanted digital clocks countdown whatever time is afforded them.
The rich get wealthy by hording years in their vaults – effectively becoming immortal if they take no risks – while the poor cheat, steal or kill just to last another 24 hours. Once your clock runs out, you die.
That interesting concept, though, is unfortunately unable to corral into a quality story. By a chance encounter, our protagonist Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is gifted more than a century to spend as he pleases. And so the stage is set for him to correct the social injustices that exist in this dystopian future, through a fairly generic, muddled and downright boring script.
Niccol has an obvious talent for blending sci-fi elements with human drama in order to raise larger philosophical points about our society. In Time attempts to follow that trend, only it is unable to synthesise any strong points or conclusions from the socio-economic issues it so clearly (and heavy-handedly) touches on.
The idea of time as currency has huge thematic potential, and in the first act it seems as though the film will utilise this by exploring issues such as what it is to ‘live’ versus ‘exist’. However, once the formulaic action-movie tropes work their way into the second act, the whole “time is money” metaphor deflates into shallow word substitution. (Lines like “Clean your clocks”, “don’t waste my time”, “Can you give me a minute’’ are used to the point where they could spawn their own drinking game.)
Much of what occurs with both the plot and characters during the latter part of the film feels cobbled together and confused, and sucks whatever momentum the premise had right out of the film.
At times (see, it’s contagious), it feels like there are three or four plots going that could have made great films in their own right. Instead, they become jumbled, and the film loses track of the unique sci-fi concept that really is the best thing it had going for it – despite what Timberlake fans might say.
Even Cillian Murphy’s character as a gruff Timekeeper (a police force created to “keep time”) is only half-explored, and the end of his arc feels wasted and redundant compared to the amount of screen time he eats up, especially given his potential as by far the most interesting character in the film.
In the end, In Time is frustrating not because it’s an awful movie, but because it misses so many opportunities to be a good one. The pieces are there for it to succeed, but each passing scene just can’t connect and put it together. The last thing a movie like this should do is have you checking your watch the way the characters check theirs.
– Dane Halpin