October 31, 2011

In Time couldn’t have come along at a better moment.  With today’s headlines screaming about class warfare, the have-nots vs. the haves, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, writer/director Andrew Niccol’s film about a dystopian future where the poor are getting priced out of their very lives seems a little more than prophetic.  In fact, it’s kind of downright scary how prescient this film is, considering it was filmed before the Occupy Wall Street protests and the current socioeconomic turmoil in which we’ve found ourselves.

Picture a world where youth is favored over aging and wealth is squandered by the rich, while the middle class and the poor scrape by with the slimmest of means.  The rich have no idea what it’s like to need, while the poor will never know the luxury of not having to worry about how they’re going to pay for their bus ride, meal or rent.  And while the wealthy deposit record profits in their bank accounts, the poor are dying and forgotten.  The line between middle class and poor is beginning to blur, as the cost of living just keeps increasing to the point where not even the middle class can afford that which was once affordable.

Actually, you don’t have to picture it at all – this is happening to us right here, right now.  In Time scrutinizes our present-day obsessions with youth, money and power and puts them under Niccol’s microscope, where he uses it to turn our own eyes upon ourselves.  Upon reaching the age of 25, all aging stops, thanks to genetic engineering; in addition, overpopulation of the world is slowly becoming a thing of the past, thanks to a literal biological clock that gives you one year to live past 25.  Time is your currency and can be added or subtracted; death only occurs when the subject “times out” or when a life is ended by external means (murder, car accidents, etc.).  Those with the most time control everything and achieve a kind of perverse immortality, while those with the least time live hand-to-mouth, working for additional time or stealing it (i.e. adding someone else’s minutes to your own and forcing them to time out).  Besides a wealth of time, the other thing separating the poor from the rich are “time zones”, the habitation of which is dictated by how much time you have on your clock.  The wealthy live in a place called New Greenwich, while the poor are relegated to the ghettos.

Justin Timberlake turns in a terrific performance as Will Salas, a ghetto denizen who lives his life constantly hoping that he can just see the next day.  The cost of living in the ghetto seems to be increasing day by day, with many people being prevented from even affording a simple bus ride.  However, thanks to a gift of over 100 years from suicidal Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), he is suddenly transported to the good life, only to have it snatched from him after being accused by the Timekeepers (the police force) of murdering Hamilton for his time.  Going on the run with wealthy socialite Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), he starts stealing time from banks and distributing it to the poor.  Pursuing him is Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), whose dogged sense of duty keeps him from being influenced by neither rich nor poor, no matter who offers him help.  He is the strongest character of the film in trying to uphold society’s rules, but not for personal gain; “It’s the way it’s always been,” he tiredly says at one point as an explanation of why he has continued to do his job for 50 years.

Earlier this year at San Diego Comic-Con, I was in Hall H as Niccol, Timberlake and Seyfried pitched In Time to the audience.  After they showed the extended, Comic-Con-exclusive trailer, I immediately fired off a text message to my head writer: “I want to cover In Time.  Total dibs,” as In Time became the surprise discovery of Comic-Con for me.  It’s little surprise that the finished film fulfilled every expectation I had and engages the viewer on so many different levels.  As a piece of entertainment, it is diverting enough to make for an enjoyable man-on-the-run movie.  As social commentary, its scathing exaggeration of some of our more misaligned American values has a serious bite with sharp teeth.  In Time may not offer any answers or solutions, but it sure as hell has something to say.

Make it a point to listen.


Reel Film News Movie Review by Eddie Pasa

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