Justin Timberlake has certainly come a long way. One of the most successful musicians/artists around, he's also shown a knack for comedy with his hosting duties on Saturday Night Live. What about drama? I haven't seen The Social Network, but he takes another stab at the dramatic with 2011's In Time.
It is sometime in the near future, but things have drastically changed. Humans have been genetically engineered to stop aging at the age of 25. Once you hit that mark? You're given a year to work with, but time is funny in this futuristic society. Food, supplies, clothes, rent, all of it can be paid for with time, meaning many people are living from day-to-day, including Will Salas (Timberlake), a 28-year old man. Others aren't so lucky, running out of time (i.e. Life) and dropping dead in the street. Will meets a mysterious stranger one night, and wakes up the next morning with 100 years of time given to him. What to do? He doesn't sit back and waste the time, deciding to go on the offensive against the upper class and their "bought" time that has them living for years and years longer than expected. Trying to stop him is a veteran Timekeeper, Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), who knows the power Will possesses.
Science fiction dystopia allows for all sorts of unique, eccentric, and off-the-wall situations in films and literature. From writer and director Andrew Niccol, 'Time' is one of the most incredibly unique premises I've ever seen in a movie -- science fiction or not. What if time was useful as money? Want a cup of coffee? Pay 4 minutes off your life. A high-tech bar code is on your left forearm literally counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds you have before you simply run out of time and die. Individuals can give time to each other, saving them and helping them live longer. What it comes down to though is making everything count. You work today so you can live tomorrow, your pay check coming in hours, not dollars. Want to travel if you're rich? Give months off your life. Want to gamble? How many years are you willing to spend if you lose?
This ultra-impressive and original premise opens the doors for all sorts of high tension sequences and set pieces. Because you can transfer time, we see several races to do so, the final seconds literally counting down. It's just two people sprinting toward each other, one wanting to live, the other desperately trying to get to them. Tension and adrenaline much? These sequences are aided by composer Craig Armstrong's score, part epic music, part electronica. A later scene at a high-stakes poker game has Timberlake's Salas betting his life quite literally as he goes all in on a call. Less than 10 seconds are winding down on his arm, his life depending on if his opponent was bluffing or not. Take an original premise and run with it, ratcheting up that tension until its almost unbearable. That premise is great to watch and unfold, but.....
That's all this movie is...a premise. The characters are almost uniformly dull. The story that develops is a dumbed-down Bonnie and Clyde without the violence. Salas kidnaps heiress Syliva Weis (Amanda Seyfried) and goes on the run across time zones from the rich area of New Greenwich to the poor, lower classes of Dayton (sure looks like Los Angeles). They never seem to be in any rush to get anything done. If they're causing such problems, wouldn't the powers that be send more than one Timekeeper after them? They become symbols of a resistance to the common people, a reason to fight back. Why should the rich dictate life? I just didn't buy it. There is a feel of a great starting point, a great place to jump off from, but that's it. Nothing more developed, characters doing incredibly stupid things, and no legitimate satisfaction in the end.
Playing the dramatic role, Timberlake shows he's not a natural actor. Any truly intense dramatic scenes just don't work. He is just not there yet as an actor. Cool anti-hero, man of few words? Yeah, he's more believable there. Potential, but he's still got some work to do. Seyfried's charcter, Sylvia, is awful, changing her mind with each passing wind. On a completely shallow note, she is stunningly gorgeous in the part. The other problem is that most of the last hour has Timberlake and Seyfried sprinting away from danger. Literally, that's it. That's all. They run holding hands, stop and catch a break, then run some more. Not surprisingly, Murphy as Timekeeper Leon is the best thing going here, an intimidating presence, a roguish Blade Runner sci-fi like cop hunting them down. Also look for Olivia Wilde as Will's mother (thanks to genetics looking like his sister), Johnny Galecki as Borel, Will's long-time friend, Matt Bomer in a scene-stealing part as Henry Hamilton, a man who's lived over 75 years past his 25th birthday who gives his time to Will, and Alex Pettyfer as Fortis, a Minuteman, a thuggish enforcer who leads a crew stealing people's time.
Because I very much enjoyed the unique writing and idea that sets the stage, I wanted to like this movie so much more but still came away disappointed. There was so much potential here to develop, but nothing ever comes of it. The last half hour is too familiar, too traditional, dropping the ball after the impressive first hour. I'll still recommend it, but what could have been a classic is only so-so in the end.
In Time <---trailer (2011): ** 1/2 /****