Written by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde
Oh goodness, the age-old issue of excellent science-fiction concepts failing in their execution. A far too often occurrence and In Time stands as one of the larger disappointments because its concept is genuinely fascinating and something deserving of such complex deconstruction. Something this feature begins to take on but gets far too distracted at times with useless side plots and fails to stick the landing with the larger ideas it wants to take on.
In a world where once you turn 25, your literal biological clock begins to tick down, as presented on your arm. Once your clock strikes zeros across the board, you die. The passage of time thus becomes a currency dividing those with it and without like Will Salas (Justin Timberlake). Upon getting gifted a bountiful amount of time, he decides he wants to make larger systemic changes.
The correlation In Time wants to make with its concept of income inequality does not come through in the subtlest way, but it pretty much defines what I adore about the science-fiction genre. It allows for a larger discussion on topics impacting real people but under the guise of another prism to make an impactful statement. The utilization of time and how it speaks on wealth works so well for about 40% of the feature. Essentially, everything occurs in the first act where this gets explained and how people act when they know they do not have time versus those that have so much they never have to check it.
These little details when Will makes his way to the richer part of the society where he sticks out like a sore thumb in his mannerisms carry incredible parallels. Instead of running everywhere, the people around him leisurely walk and while he scarfs down food, everyone else just calmly eats. It raises eyebrows about his presence there but more so speaks to the difference between older and new money. All of this occurs in the first half of the film and it sets up such an intriguing storyline with deep thematic resonance, but once the film tries to become Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood story, it not only fumbles the bag on its incredible premise but continues to bring back useless aspects of the first half.
In these bank-robbing scenes, the film shows it may have been out of its depth in fully exploring the very premise set up and an adept understanding of wealth inequality. The solution found in the end comes across as incredibly rudimentary, which should not be the case with something so wonderfully set up in a complex manner. Then you have the incessant need to continually add people like Fortis (Alex Pettyfer). A local gangster, who essentially maintains the status quo for the establishment in the poorer neighborhoods meaning he gets left alone by law enforcement. Whenever this character showed up, it just threw a wet blanket over any momentum the film wanted to build up. This occurs at its most horrific in the “fighting” scene. Something that was built up right from the beginning of the narrative with the explanation of Will’s father being a fighter to put food and time on the table at home. When the scene actually occurs and we get to see what the fighting actually means when Will takes on Fortis, it nearly caused a chortle from how abjectly hilarious the entire scene became and certainly not in a good way. A scene meant to be taken seriously because of the stakes involved and it almost caused second-hand embarrassment watching the actors try to build some intensity and tension when the whole thing looked ridiculous. Beyond silly and only drags a story already losing all of the goodwill it built up in the first half.
However, even with the deep gaping issues plaguing this film, it still contains so many fascinating nuggets that deserve another chance for a better explanation. The uniqueness of this setup allows for more intriguing elements like the idea everyone stops aging at 25. An instance where generations of the wealthy can live forever where you have Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) introducing Will to his daughter, wife, and mother-in-law, who all look like 25-year-olds. Such a weird dynamic but one that deserves more than what this film eventually delivers. Instead, the film takes far too much time distracted in its efforts to be groundbreaking with its solution to income inequality where it misses out on far more interesting facets of the very world created here. At the very least the film can say they took the saying “time is money” literally. Give this concept another chance, because it definitely deserves it.