In Time (REVIEW)

In Time (REVIEW)

By Darren Moverley – 8/10

Time is literally money in the nightmarish dystopian distortion of capitalism oppressing the inhabitants of the society in In Time. Other formerly figurative phrases that have literal context in, In time include, ‘your days are numbered’, ‘your clock is ticking’ and living on borrowed time. For after the ripe old age of twenty five in this surprisingly inventive little thriller, a sinister green number embedded on the residents arm, relentlessly begins counting down, reminding its owner that unless they find some way of topping up the clock, they only have one year left to live.

Time is the currency – and everyone’s scrambling around, working dead-end jobs, desperate to find a means of topping up their fleeting time. Society has never contained more disparity: the super-rich – whose sands of time are so plentiful that they make the Sahara desert look like a child’s sandbox – and the extremely time impoverished, who now live day to day in industrial ghettos – barely accumulating enough time to keep a roof over their heads and wondering where their next minute will come from.

Society is so divided here that the rich and poor never even cross paths, separated by foreboding time zones, policed by black leather jacket wearing Gestapo like time keepers, employed to keep the poor permanently in their slum dog ghettoes. There’s no hope of anyone ever upsetting the status quo – that is until a mysterious figure wanders into the ghetto flashing an obscene amount of time on his clock. The man, is clearly out of his mind and in a dangerous position until, Justin Timberlake’s ghetto lark with a heart steps in and steers him out of harm’s way. It seems possessing so much time on the clock isn’t as satisfying as the poor dream it to be, as the stranger deposits his time to Timberlake, giving him such a large amount of time that he is presented with the kind of opportunity to cross the divide that no one could ever envisage let alone face. What will he find in the society of the over-privileged? Will they recognize his origins despite his impressive clock? Will the upper class and time keepers stand for this strange anomaly in their system? And will anyone, in a world so bereft of good will as this, ever believe a man gave his time to another?

The overly slick poster for In time makes the film look so bland and generic it almost blends with the fashion posters for designer labels on the billboards. To the casual eye, that poster combined with the casting of Justin Timberlake, made this look like some throwaway run of the mill teen appealing chase thriller.

On closer inspection, this is an idea born of the creative and intelligent mind of a conscientious screenwriter in Andrew Nicol; a man who has written some exceptionally thought-provoking screenplays, containing the most gripping drama about the contentious issues of our age: reality tv in The Truman show; human cloning in Gattaca; and gun trading in Lord of war.

Nicol is a screenwriter who cares about what is happening to the world and all his screenplays have run along the theme of injustice towards the common man – In time is no different in that respect. Once again Nicol’s tackles the burning contentious issue of the day, that being, the ever increasing divide between the haves and the have nots and the super elites’ greed driven, self-serving manipulation of the system. Yep, it’s evident that this films time is now.

This is the ultimate race against time chase movie; it’s got a clever high-concept that could easily be hi-jacked and steered in the direction of surface thrills and against the clock chase scenes. Sometimes potentially good sci-fi screenplays are given to action hungry directors and the point is lost. Nicol also directs this, and, although the film does get a little side-tracked with crowd-pleasing car chases in posh sports cars, on the whole he creates a world which puts a clever new twist on classic sci-fi futuristic nightmares like Brave new world, 1984 and Logan’s run. It is a creative, debate stirring vision which skilfully builds a world which serves as an insightful metaphor for just how unscrupulous and ruthless capitalism has become.

There is food for thought at every corner as Nicol challenges his audience to reflect on what unrestrained capitalism can really do to society and the individual. Life is understandably grim for the ghetto dwellers, they face no hope of a better life and their only consolation is that, for however long their life is, their youth will be forever preserved at the age of 25. So this is a world where age is abolished creating some confusion as to who is more senior than whom, but giving rise to some amusing jokes in which parental figures appear younger than their offspring.

Humour isn’t really on the agenda here though; the tone is grim and in a canny play from Nicol, the upper class are seen to be just as dissatisfied by their system as the proletarian. Stone faced upper-class designer clad aristocrats shuffle about their sterile, problem-less environment with an inner-dissatisfaction at their own vacuous pointless existence. Money can’t buy happiness and nor would it seem the prospect of immortality if it were to become a commodity.

Boredom is the privilege of the time opulent as the lives of the underclass are enlivened by the day to day survival drama that now defines their miserable existence. ‘For a few to become immortal many must die’ is the mantle of In time’s apathetic time tyrant, but the reality of everyone’s lives in this unsettling world is that their system has reduced them to one dimensional, time obsessed sub-people compelled to stare at the diminishing green number like a bored factory worker on a 12 hour shift. It’s an empty existence for everyone – rich or poor. Capitalism is the real villain in Nicol’s film.

As for Justin Timberlake, he seemed a bewildering casting choice in a sci-fi screen-play, but actually he is perfectly fine in the role, he has just enough edge to be believable as a man from the Ghetto and he is surprisingly likeable enough for the audience to will him to succeed in over-throwing this horribly oppressive system. Most of Nicol’s screenplays, particularly Gattaca and The Truman show featured a hopelessly oppressed – but totally under-estimated little guy imprisoned in an unfair system, he needs to fight against the odds to break-out of. Like Jim Carrey’s character in The Truman show or Ethan Hawke’s in Gattaca, Timberlake’s little guy is a man you root for. Timberlake does enough to validate the character.

Elsewhere, Cillian murphy is interesting as a deadpan, jaded time keeper and Amanda Seyfried looks futuristic and represents the upper classes’ stifled existence. The film breaks into life when her and Timberlake embark on a Bonnie and Clyde style rebellion.

There’s a pattern to Nicol’s screenplays that suggests he advocates rage against the machine; he’s a rebel with a cause and his themes and thoughts have produced yet another thought-provoking and gripping film.

Masterful screenwriter and director Andrew Nicol returns with another excellent screenplay. Don’t be put off by the casting of Timberlake, In time is a thrilling, intelligent, inventive and captivating film which carries the strong suggestion that it’s time we got a new system.


About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

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