Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Time - Theatrical Review


Release Date: October 28, 2011

Not all great ideas need to come from books. The best Science Fiction films are often inspired by or adapted from either a novel or short story, which is fine I suppose. But sometimes it is refreshing to have a film that doesn't rely on some pre-existing work, unfortunately that idea needs to be realized in a proper manner in order for it to take shape and In Time is a prime example of a clever idea executed poorly.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC Glendora 12
Time: 4:45 pm October 30, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: Intriguing concepts, Gattaca
Likes: Justine Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried
Neutral: Poor production values
Hates: Intriguing concepts that are wasted
Huh: This is from the same guy who made Gattaca?

I was really looking forward to this film. I had started warming up to Justin Timberlake as an actor after his fine performance in last years The Social Network and despite her recent track record I continue to be a big fan of Amanda Seyfried. So when I first saw the trailer for In Time I got pretty excited, two actors that I enjoy in a film with a pretty brilliant concept and made by the same man who directed one of the smartest Sci-Fi films of all time, Gattaca. As usual the only that could possibly go wrong is if the film didn't live up to the promise of such a clever premise. In order for it to work all the filmmakers had to do was make sure the world they created made sense and was somewhat believable. Imagine my surprise that the one thing that could go wrong actually did.

At the age of 25 all humans stop aging, they are young forever. The catch is that every single person in this undisclosed future has a literal ticking clock that continuously counts down and when that timer reaches zero they die. Time has then become literal commodity, instead of working for that hard earned dollar people find themselves actually working the typical eight hour shift only to earn that actual time back plus an extra hour or two so that they can live longer. In Time is one of the most in your face metaphorical films you will ever see. You will see plenty of parallels with how our society works today except for the bit about time being the currency that is. It is an interesting concept, the human race spending time to earn more in order to live forever but it is an idea that seems to be a little more than producer/writer/director Andrew Niccol could handle.

Timberlake has just realized how much time he wasted by being in this movie.

The most important aspect to any Science Fiction film is the world building. It could have the greatest premise of all time, have the best special effects money can buy and have the best actors in the world but none of that means anything unless we believe the world those characters and effects inhabit feels real or at the very least plausible. That is where In Time stumbles the most, the execution is actually so lackluster that one has to wonder if anyone involved in the project had any sort of clue as to how ingenious their overall gimmick actually was. One would think that given all the possibilities such a premise provides that the filmmakers must have had so many ideas that the film would be brimming with a bunch of senseless little in jokes and real world parallels but that is surprisingly not the goal of this film.

You will note that at the opening of this review I used the word "idea". That's what this film is, an idea. That idea, as clever as it is, is used mostly as window dressing to a very common and ultimately uninspired story of a poor and down on his luck man who is suddenly thrown into a world where everything seems possible. We see and learn of the world the film takes place in mainly through the eyes of Will Salas (Justine Timberlake). His protagonist isn't very different from others you have seen in countless other Sci-Fi films. He is just your average guy living day by day (literally) who finds himself in over his head because of one simple gesture of good will. By saving the life of an upper class citizen who has more time than what he knows to do with, Will unwittingly becomes the inheritor of this stranger's entire life span, over a century's worth of time which at first seems like more time than he will ever need.

It may not be as flashy as a Rolex but it gets the job done.

This set up is actually the best part of the film, it does an admirable job of easing us into its reality. When we see Will go through his daily routines it all felt overly familiar but with just enough little details sprinkled throughout showing off how this world works. Seeing Will's mother (Olivia Wilde) and how she looks just as young as he does despite actually being fifty years old was a nice touch as was seeing what happens when you only have an hour left until you die and the bus that will get you to where you need to be to get more time costs 2 hours. At this point in the film I was into it, it had set itself up in a decent enough manner and clearly established the consequences for living in a world where time is not only the currency but also your lifeline. The problem is that after those initial moments the movie kept going and it didn't know where it wanted to go.

You see, this is one of those films where the longer it goes on the less sense it makes. When Will leaves the slums and makes his journey into the wealthy district things start to fall apart. It's not just the logistics of the world itself that start to crumble but also the motivations for the characters as well. You might think you have Will figured out by the time he moves in with the rich demographic but you soon realize that you can never truly figure him out because his actions don't really make any sort of sense. One minute he is a lowly worker who is always just minutes away from dying until he earns some more time, the next he is a guy set on a road to revenge and soon after that he is spending time like crazy and living the good life. How does he exact this revenge exactly? By playing a high stakes game of poker of course. Another issue is who exactly is he after? He was told by his mysterious benefactor that things in their world are not what they seem but that is all he has to go off of. Is he targeting the entire rich community? If so then what is he going to do? All we see him do is buy an expensive car and flirt with the local tycoon's daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).

Mother, daughter, wife...which one is which?

Honestly I could go on all day about how none of what Will and Sylvia do makes much sense and how their sudden crime spree derails any sort of momentum the film had. The true culprit behind this films failings is that all the pieces used to construct this world are either not thought through completely or so half-assed that it becomes insulting. Much like another movie with a great premise but tanked by horrible execution (Repo Men) the world of In Time makes less and less sense the more it tries to expand on its world. The first thing that really jumps out is how the population of this world is seemingly OK with how everything works. Sure the poor despise the rich because of how much time they have compared to them but do they ever really do anything about it? Nope, they just roll over and die with little complaining.

Tell me, if you were just barely making it through each day with only hours left on your clock when you wake up each morning wouldn't you do something about it? I mean the citizens of this world go to work to earn more time but it is never enough, they are always on the verge of dying (in this world if you lend someone a little time it could mean your death). So why are there no riots? Where is all the crime? There is a small group of criminals that roam the streets called Minute Men (how clever) that steal time from the poor but that's it. If you only had a couple of minutes left to live wouldn't you do anything to get more time? If you were a gorgeous woman (which this world seems to have plenty of) wouldn't you try to sell yourself for some more time? There is no crime, nobody really tries to stay alive beyond just trying to work at their jobs or playing the random gambling sessions where two people hold hands and shift time back and forth between them.

The time keepers aren't very humorous fellows.

This world feels as though it should be the seventh ring of hell, rampant crime and little to no control. I suppose that is why a world like this could never exist, at least not in the way it is depicted here because the human race is way to selfish to ever be just OK with the fact that they might die if they sleep in a little too late when the alarm clock doesn't go off. Even if there were murders and robberies plaguing the city its not like there is any form of authority to handle any of it. There appears to only be one type of police in this world and they are called Time Keepers (another clever name) led by veteran time keeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy). Their job is to investigate deaths involving time theft, they never seem to care about the possibility that a murder might be the result of something other than stolen time though. I guess it makes some sort of sense that their main motive for murders would be time theft given that there isn't really any other reason beyond just plain hatred that someone would kill another. That's not really the point here though, this world is deprived of any type of law which is once again another issue I had with the world of Repo Men.

The film is also very inconsistent with how and when it decides to populate its world as well. One moment the streets are bustling and the next it is a ghost town. My guess was that the budget was probably too low to be able to hire background extras for every scene and that hypothesis is backed by the gigantic lack of production value when it comes to the on location sets. Most of the film looked as though it was filmed in or near the L.A. river with many scenes taking place in dry city lake beds. The slums also looked rather plain as though they were shot in a low rent factory district somewhere. This is supposed to be the future right? Where are all the gadgets? Where are the technological advances? If there were a scientific genius born into this world then imagine the possibilities. What if Albert Einstein could live forever? This feels more like a society that has halted progression instead of pushing forward. I could understand the people in the slums living like that but even the rich don't seem to have any sort of real technological advances. They don't even have cell phones!

I don't care how bad this movie is, I love those eyes!

I could go on and on and on about this and that is the main problem. If I can't stop thinking about the possibilities of this world then why couldn't the filmmakers? Instead of fully fleshing out its world and milking its promising concept for all its worth we get a Bonnie and Clyde remake which is a real shame. The last thing I want to see in a film about people that live forever and use time as a form of currency is two people robbing banks (that have no guards by the way) and falling in love during their crime spree (which made no sense). There are so many questions that could have and should have been asked. Why was the human race genetically engineered to be this way? Who did it? How did it happen? How did the entire world decide to accept this fate? Apparently there are no schools anymore because nobody seems to know their history. One character mentions that there was a time when things were simpler but he can't remember...and this guy is over 100 f**king years old!

There is so much wrong with this film that as I write this I can still think of over a dozen things that just don't add up. Why were we constantly being spoon fed these hints about Will's father and his past only to have it never explained? Why would a man who was just given over a decade worth of time go spend over nine years of it and drink himself to death? Where did Will and Sylvia miraculously manifest an armored car from to rob banks with? Why was this giant conspiracy about all the extra time in the world being hidden away dropped in the last act in favor of the crime spree story? If it sounds as though I am over thinking the film, well you may be right. But when a movie asks me to buy into its reality and asks me to suspend my disbelief then it had at the very least provide me with a world, characters and story that makes some sort of f**king sense! Are there any redeeming values to the film? It may seem like it at first but as the minutes tick away and you get further into the film you will soon find yourself asking one simple question...why am I wasting my f**king time with this shit?! Your time would be much better spent elsewhere so I humbly ask you to...


Don't miss our latest episode of The LRA Show where we discuss In Time in much greater detail. The episode can be found at the following link:



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