Good science fiction makes commentary on contemporary issues in a unique, metaphorical way. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), comments about anti-communism McCarthy-era paranoia. George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) critiques 1960s domestic racism. In Time (2011) is a creative science fiction movie that makes some interesting social commentary about issues of today.
In the future, scientists have discovered how to make people stop aging after 25 years. At this point, they have one year left; the minutes are visibly ticking down on a digital readout on their left forearm. Everyone is allowed to earn more time through work, gambling, or investment. As a result, time has become the main currency. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in a time ghetto with his mother (Olivia Wilde), barely making ends meet with scarcely a whole day on their hands. Will rescues a wealthy, depressed man named Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer). They fall asleep after a long talk about life. Will wakes to find a century on his clock and Hamilton about to jump off a bridge. Will tries to stop him, but is too late. This is caught on a security camera; making Will a prime suspect in Hamilton’s supposed murder. Will uses his newfound time to get to a wealthier time zone. There he meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), daughter of the richest man alive, Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), who is himself heavily involved in controlling the time markets. A Timekeeper police officer, Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), attempts to arrest Will who takes Sylvia hostage. After seeing what the time ghetto is like, Sylvia decides to help Will overthrow the system that perpetuates the socioeconomic divide, all while eluding the Timekeepers.
In Time was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote and directed Gattaca (1997). The two movies have some qualitative similarities; Niccol seems to make up an amazing and creative science fiction setting, and put an underdeveloped storyline into it. The premise in In Time is just fascinating! You see subtle background details about how time as currency has changed things; I like the 99 Seconds Store and the Timeshare Savings and Loan. This is some good science fiction that makes you think about the real world; the value of a dollar, how you spend your time, and the current economic status of the world. It does this very well. Unfortunately that is about all that In Time does. It seems to continually beat you over the head with the premise to make sure you know there is a socioeconomic divide, and that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Niccol could have developed story further and expanded the premise more; he just didn’t venture deeper into the movie’s potential.
Whenever I see Justin Timberlake, I can’t help but think of the boy band fad of the 1990’s. Timberlake was pretty good in In Time, given the script and material he had to work with. He pulls off the action hero look well: lean figure, facial stubble, and buzz-cut hair. I can overlook his *NSYNC years after seeing In Time. Cillian Murphy delivers a good, but different villain as Raymond Leon than he did as Scarecrow in Batman Begins (2005). He was suave and well mannered in his cruelty. His motivation for wanting to stop Will was selfish, but understandable. He is the kind of villain you like because you can relate to him on some level. Amanda Seyfried did a good job of playing a pretty sheltered brat. That’s about the extent of the character, but like Timberlake, she did a good job with what she had to work with.
In Time was a really interesting science fiction combination of Logan’s Run (1976), Bonnie & Clyde (1967), any Robin Hood movie, and the real world Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, if you are involved with Occupy Wall Street in any way you’ll love In Time. I’d highly recommend seeing it. If you are not, I still recommend seeing it just because the setting and themes are so interesting. But since the story isn’t all that dynamic, I’d recommend a matinee viewing or just wait for it on home video.