Directed by Andrew Niccol. Starring Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde. (2011, PG-13, 109 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Nov. 4, 2011
In Time isn't writer/director Andrew Niccol's first time dabbling in a seemingly refined future that's dystopian for the have-nots; his 1997 debut, Gattaca, was a richly imagined, cleverly realized vision of a society stratified by genetic engineering. While In Time shares similar DNA – they're both about the struggle of the underdog to game the system – it's a far chintzier production.
Borrowing a dash from Logan's Run and a dollop from Bonnie and Clyde, the concept is that in the near future, time has become the most precious commodity. To combat overcrowding and diminishing resources, all humans stop aging at 25 and the clocks on their arms start counting down. Just as wages are paid out with added time to a human's lifespan, rent, bread money, and bus fare are subtracted. So the rich stockpile centuries, while the poor live one day at a time and drop dead in the street. A nifty enough concept, and one that inches closer to plausibility when you start to think about developing technology – think palm scanners in Japan, then pause for spine chill.
But there's concept, and then there's execution, and Niccol, for one, can't resist the cornball double entendres too easily plucked from his premise. "I don't have time for a girlfriend," cracks working-class hero Will Salas (Timberlake); cue the close-up of his ever-winding-down arm clock. Niccol rolls out the red carpet for every old saw about time, and it instantly imbues the film with a hokeyness it never recovers from. Casting pretty young things like Justin Timberlake (fumbling badly when gravitas is required) and Amanda Seyfriend can only go so far to counteract the film's fundamental unhipness. They have some fun playacting at class warriors on the lam – and Seyfried, it must be said, rocks a killer bob – but it's all just big-budget dress-up in a futurescape that reeks of phoniness.