Thursday, October 27, 2011

'In Time' may have you clock watching

Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried play for time in a monotonous, one-note thriller.
The sci-fi thriller In Time takes place in a world in which the wealthy can extend their lives indefinitely and the rest of the population is programmed to die young.

In the movie's dystopian future, time has replaced money: Workers are paid in time, and people buy, sell and trade time in order to prolong life. Of course, time (like money) isn't easily acquired -- and some people steal it.

That's an intriguing premise, but writer/director Andrew Niccol, who also wrote The Truman Show and who wrote and directed the similarly chilly Gattaca, doesn't do enough with it.

Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas, a young man who -- since turning 25 -- has been scuffling to earn one additional day at a time. The plot contrives to put Will in the company of Amanda Seyfried's Sylvia Weiss, a rich girl whose father (Vincent Kartheiser) has accumulated vast amounts of time for himself and his family. He does this by exploiting the poor.

The movie goes to some lengths to mount a class-conscious social critique. The rich live abundantly in a zone referred to as New Greenwich. The poor are walled off in a ghetto where they're always borrowing time at exorbitant interest rates.

Not surprisingly, Timberlake's Will winds up on the run with Seyfried's Sylvia. A cop (Cillian Murphy) follows in hot pursuit. Seyfried's Sylvia gradually realizes that her life of privilege has been built on intolerable exploitation of the poor: She joins Will in a Bonnie and Clyde-style rampage.

Niccol gets amusing mileage out of the fact that everyone in this world looks 25. An example: Sylvia's father, mother and grandmother all appear to be the same age.

Additional interest is generated by the way in which people give each other time. They lock arms and transfer hours. (A luminous clock -- planted in an arm -- ticks off every hour and second of a person's life.)

Timberlake and Seyfried -- who seem to be vying to see whose face can reveal the least -- aren't exactly a combustible item, the score by Craig Armstrong tends toward monotony, and -- to tell you the truth -- I can't say I believed a minute of this coolly mounted tale.

I was surprised to learn that In Time is a mere 110-minutes long. For me, the movie seemed to expand time rather than make it go faster. What went wrong? Niccol does a good job creating a time-conscious world, but doesn't have a strong enough story to keep his movie ticking.

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