Now here’s something the cinema world is lacking: an exciting science fiction movie with an original premise, an emotional story and a point to make. For what it’s worth, In Time is simply phenomenal. Its trailers make it out to be a simple story full of the same mindless action we’ve come to expect, but it turns out to be so much more. It’s an allegorical statement on modern times. It’s a political calling. It’s about a corrupt system that feeds off the misery of the poor while the rich reap the benefits. It’s about challenging that system and doing what’s right even if what’s right goes against the established way of living. This movie, though presumably set in the future, is timely and relevant to today. It questions the way things are run and feeds off the anger many are feeling towards those who caused the current recession. In Time is not simply sci-fi fodder. It’s as intelligent and thought provoking a movie that has come out all year.
In the film’s universe, people have been genetically engineered to stop aging at the age of 25, but once they reach that age, they are given one more year to live. A clock that is wired in their arm begins to count down and once it reaches zero, they’re dead. Because of this, time is the new currency. To buy a coffee, you don’t pay with cash. You pay with minutes. Through this system, the rich are able to live forever while the poor struggle day by day to get by. Will (Justin Timberlake) is one of those poor people. Every day he wakes up and has mere hours to live, so he toils at his job at the factory and is given more time. One day, however, he is given over 100 years by a rich man who has had it with life and is ready to die. Unfortunately, the police force, called Timekeepers, led by Raymond (Cillian Murphy), thinks he stole the time and killed the man. So the chase is on, but not before he enlists the help of wealthy socialite, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).
The rich prosper while the poor struggle day by day to get by. Sound familiar? If there’s one movie this year that nails the financial crisis we are currently in, it’s this one. It expresses its disgust by the greed of a select few while millions suffer daily. It asks why, when there are more than enough resources for all to live on, we allow such suffering to take place. It takes the notion of social Darwinism (called “Darwinian capitalism” in the movie) and explores it thoroughly, applying the phrase “survival of the fittest” not simply to physical strength or evolutionary superiority, but to riches and status. And it does it all within its own futuristic world; it never sacrifices its story to make a point. Instead, it coalesces the two, creating something that works by itself, but has significance to the real world.
Even if you took away all of that commentary, In Time would still be something worth watching. It takes a downright brilliant concept and runs with it, tapping into a fear we all have: our impending deaths. We all know that one day, we’re going to die, but it’s the not knowing when that makes it easy to live. If we knew precisely how much time we had left, everything would be different, but that’s something these characters have to deal with and you fear for them just as they fear for themselves. Every tick of the clock weighs heavy on your emotions and that combined with the mesmerizingly beautiful score manage to create feeling in a movie that would be easy to assume had none.
Is In Time perfect? No, of course not. No movie is. Some of the cutesy humor doesn’t work and feels out of place in a story where the characters face such dire situations, some of the dialogue is taken out of the handbook of action movie clichés and certain motivations don’t necessarily make sense (“No one should be immortal if even one person has to die” is flawed logic), but otherwise, In Time is tight, well crafted, poignant, refined and uncommonly intelligent. It couldn’t come at a better time, when Americans are lining up to protest Wall Street for screwing them over with corrupt business practices, and it dares to say something about the unfairness of the system we live in. This may be a work of fiction, but take away the futuristic element and it’s a based-on-a-true-story drama of modern times.
In Time receives 4.5/5