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Review: In Time (2011), starring Justin Timberlake

In Time (2011), starring Justin Timberlake
10.28.2011by: Chris Bumbray
7 10

PLOT: In the future, people will stop aging at twenty-five. From that point, they will each have one year left on their imprinted time code, which they use as currency. The rich can virtually stay twenty-five forever, but the poor, including Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and his mother (Olivia Wilde) have to struggle day in, day out with their impending mortality. When a rich man (Matt Bomer) gives Will a century worth of time, he uses it to gain entry into high society. When a tenacious timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) learns of his surplus of time, he charges Will with murder. Forced to take a heiress, Sylvia Weiss (Amanda Seyfried) hostage, Will goes on the run- determined to destroy the system that allows the rich to live forever.

REVIEW: IN TIME has a fantastic premise. We’ve all heard the old saying “time is money”, but here- it really is. Kudos to writer-director Andrew Niccol, who’s back in the same speculative sci-fi universe he examined in GATTACA. Like all good sci-fi, IN TIME is heavily influenced by the mess of a world we currently find ourselves living in- where the economy has gone berserk. The rich get richer, and the poorer get poorer- and time is the perfect metaphor for cash. After all, how can one be expected to live without income?


While the premise borders of genius, the execution, unfortunately, leaves something to be desired. I like Niccol (LORD OF WAR is one of my top films of the last decade), but for sure reason IN TIME lacks momentum. Considering that a good chunk of the movie finds our hero trying to outrun his dwindling life clock, the pace should have been more break-neck. There are parts of the film where it’s just that (the last twenty minutes are terrific), but it gets bogged down in the flabby midsection. I also thought the way time was transferred from one person to another- by merely touching arms, wasn’t well thought out. It seems to be like stealing someone’s time would be all too easy (leaving the theater my buddy and I kept grabbing each other’s arms like in the movie).

Still, that’s hardly enough to have kept me from enjoying IN TIME. Along with the premise, Niccol has picked a top-notch cast. Considering that everyone has to be twenty-five years old, this could have been tricky, but the cast is up to the challenge. I know that for a lot of people, Justin Timberlake will always be pegged a certain way, but I truly think he’s a massive talent. He proved as much in THE SOCIAL NETWORK and on SNL, and IN TIME, being his first time as a full-fledged lead, is a very solid star vehicle. He has the lean physicality for the role, and his serious approach to acting means no quippy one-liners, or action-hero posing.


Amanda Seyfried, as the obligatory love interest, is ideal as her chemistry with Timberlake is excellent. I don’t think I’m spoiling much by saying that her character eventually sympathizes with Timberlake, and joins him on his time-giving crusade and the two make a rather photogenic pair. Meanwhile, we get Olivia Wilde as Timberlake’s mom, which got a huge laugh from the audience, when Timberlake greets her with a “Hi Mom” early in the film. This could have been silly, but Wilde sells it.

Wilde, along with Cillian Murphy, and Vincent Kartheiser actually have the trickiest roles, as despite looking twenty-five (although the 35-year old Murphy looks significantly older than anyone else in the cast), they have to give off the impression of having lived three times that long. Kartheiser, of the brilliant MAD MEN, is particularly good at this, playing his greedy magnate role in a way that makes his so-called “mental-age” of seventy-five more convincing than you’d think.

Murphy plays the marginal antagonist here, as the dogged timekeeper trying to track down Timberlake, and keep the balance of his tightly structured world intact. He manages to stay sympathetic throughout, and I really liked his final scene with Timberlake. The more physical baddie is played by I AM NUMBER 4’s Alex Pettyfer, as one of a group of “Minutemen” thugs, who go around the ghetto stealing people’s time. While he’s less convincing as a character who’s supposed to mentally be in his seventies, there’s a terrific showdown between him and Timberlake later in the film that’s probably the best scene in the movie.

All in all, IN TIME is a flawed but worthwhile sci-fi film. It’s a throwback to the more socially conscious sci-fi of the seventies like SOYLENT GREEN (between this and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Fox is on a roll), and a solid two hours of entertainment. While the premise is let down a bit by the execution, it’s still very enjoyable.

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