IN TIME. Science fiction movie from the director of Gattaca
… – in an era of advanced technologies, fast-paced lives, and participation in the “rat race.” Every second counts, as it can be converted into work that brings tangible financial benefits. Such is life. However, what if the formula mentioned at the beginning were taken disturbingly literally? What if time replaced money in the equation of our existence? Would we be willing to give up two hours of our life for a bus ticket or a few minutes for a cup of coffee? This idea was brought to the big screen by Andrew Niccol, the creator of films such as Gattaca, S1mone, and Lord of War.
In the near future of In Time, scientists have succeeded in stopping the human biological clock. Physically, every person remains 25 years old. At that point, a fluorescent clock on the wrist starts counting down how much time each individual has left in this world. Time has become the currency, replacing money. To survive, one must constantly acquire time through work or even by stealing it from others. Will Salas lives in the impoverished district, in the 12th sector of the city, and his clock rarely shows more than 24 hours. One night, he saves the life of a time millionaire, Henry Hamilton, whose wrist displays 116 years of life. Hamilton, having lived almost a century, cannot come to terms with the world he lives in and desires death. However, before committing suicide, he unknowingly transfers his entire remaining life to Salas. The protagonist is suspected of murder, and meanwhile, before learning what he gained, his mother also dies as her remaining time expires. Will decides to seek revenge on the time financiers in the 1st sector. Upon reaching there, he meets the daughter of the city’s wealthiest “immortal” and begins to execute his plan to destroy the hegemony of the highest-ranking sector. Simultaneously, he must evade the Timekeeper who is on his tail…
The initial idea of In TimeIn Time is incredibly fresh and interesting, offering vast possibilities to explore different aspects of a world where human life has literal value. It was a chance for truly excellent science fiction, especially considering Niccol’s stylish work on Gattaca. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on telling a gripping story, the director devotes a considerable amount of time to symbolically portraying the functioning of the contemporary world we know, using practically immortal tyrants who oppress the poor in the most secluded parts of the city, living from minute to minute. Do we really need a reminder that the rich exploit the poor in such a banal and direct way? Characters like Hamilton and Weis talk about enrichment and exploitation using clichéd phrases. Every thinking person is somewhat aware of how the modern world operates – we don’t need a sci-fi movie to remind us of that. While this theme may resonate with some, cinema is a form of escapism, a way to disconnect from reality, and sacrificing a good idea for banality is unnecessary.
What is most painful, however, is that this approach provides very little information about the functioning of the initially fascinating world presented. We are in a constant chase with the characters, and the film’s greatest asset – the idea – is fragmented and never treated as it deserves. I understand that the topic is too heavy to extensively present and make sense of in all details, but neglecting one’s own idea does no good for Niccol’s film. The plot of In Time is filled with logical inconsistencies and absurdities that are visible to the naked eye. Why do banks have no security, and the best way to rob one is to simply crash a car through the entrance? Infiltrating the security of the world’s richest man takes a matter of minutes and wearing dark sunglasses? Additionally, there are terribly artificial coincidences (characters suddenly crash their car on a desolate stretch of road, and immediately time thieves find them; the Timekeeper pursues the fugitives and quickly spots their car, even though he didn’t know where to look), or the astonishing stupidity in the behavior of characters, aiming to artificially prolong suspense, leading to absurd situations, such as characters fleeing with minimal life time, even though moments earlier they had a device storing vast amounts of it; or the wealthiest man in the world keeping all his wealth in one safe. The director tries to cover the script deficiencies with action scenes and a fast pace. I admit that at times, the film is dynamic and attention-grabbing. Unfortunately, some scenes are poorly edited, excessively prolonged, or simply unnecessary, disrupting the flow of the narrative. Particularly noteworthy are scenes of Timberlake and Seyfried’s longer, personal interactions, lacking chemistry between the characters.
The actors of In Time chose to align themselves with the average level of the film and fit into stereotypical action movie character types. Justin Timberlake has long moved away from the pop star image and has successfully established himself in cinema, such as with his excellent role in The Social Network. Unfortunately, the character of Will, and the events he faces, are painfully clichéd. The actor had few opportunities to add something unique to the role. Together with Amanda Seyfried, they create a fairly enjoyable on-screen couple, but one doomed to be forgotten because we have seen it all in much better versions. The worst, however, is in the case of the antagonists. Cillian Murphy plays a typical workaholic for whom only the mission matters. His motivations are unclear, the plot thread is abruptly cut off, and Murphy himself plays with a single expression. Even his attire is an absolute stereotype for such characters. Vincent Kartheiser, aside from a really good poker scene, never steps out of the role of a big, evil rich man. The rest of the characters are just there to drive the plot forward, or in the case of the time-stealing gang in the poverty district, to be ridiculously exaggerated and unintentionally humorous. However, I hope that Niccol will return to this world someday, which still awaits further development, and will present us with the story of Henry Hamilton, the origins of life trading, and what led him to the brink of mental exhaustion. This is an ideal subject to delve into the unique mechanics of the film’s world.
In Time is a perfect example of untapped potential. A great idea is diluted by illogicality, stupidity, and cheap sociological preaching. It fits into the trend of currently mass-produced sci-fi films that fail to develop excellent initial ideas satisfactorily, such as John Woo’s Paycheck, Michael Bay’s The Island, Jonathan Mostow’s Surrogates, or Neil Burger’s Limitless. It is not an outstandingly bad film; it provides entertainment and is a perfect choice for a movie night with friends, where you can point out the absurdities over beer. Unfortunately, it never rises above the painfully average level. Perhaps it doesn’t want to, as it satisfies itself with being a simple, popcorn action film. It is better to rewatch Gattaca, where the interesting world and a good idea played the leading roles.