Saturday, November 5, 2011

Blogorium Review: In Time

 Let's keep this short, because what you need to know is that In Time isn't worth any of yours. I really like Gattaca and Lord of War, Andrew Niccol films that wear their political and social commentary on their sleeves. I also really like The Truman Show, which Niccol wrote. If reduced to their core, all of those films are "message" movies about one topic or the other - Gattaca is about the haves and the have nots, The Truman Show anticipated the onslaught of reality television programming, and Lord of War explicitly criticized the military industrial complex and black market arms dealing.

  In Time is no different - in fact, it's probably even more "on the nose" than the at-the-time underrated Gattaca when it comes to the 1% and what it takes to maintain power, but that is not at all to the film's benefit. As a matter of fact, In Time is so ham-fisted in its criticism of the elite class that the film can't decide whether it's supposed to be serious, satirical, or even saying anything at all. At one point the police chasing Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) are faced with a social revolution and the man in charge is asked "what should we do?" He replies "go home," and puts his gun down and leaves.

 In case you somehow haven't heard what the conceit of In Time is by now, it's probably fair to take a step back: human life tops out at twenty-five. From that point, a timer on your arm counts down how long you have left to live, and you can add or subtract time by purchasing more, gambling, or buying things. Time is money, etc. Since everybody mentions this all the time, you aren't likely to forget that, even though if the ages of characters are correct, it's been a LONG time since anybody ever heard of money in the first place.

 The elites who live in New Greenwich have anywhere from centuries to millenia on their clocks, allowing them to enjoy the easy life, while the poor are lucky to find themselves with a day left at any given point. Will is one of the working poor, who often wakes up with less than a day left and works double shifts just to stay alive. When Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) is flashing around his century's worth of time in a low end bar, Will finds himself protecting Henry from the Minutemen, a gang that steals time from anyone foolish enough to flaunt it. Henry gives Will his time, asking him not to waste it. That night, Will's mother (Olivia Wilde) literally runs out of time and dies, so he heads into New Greenwich to take down the haves.

 Because the Timekeepers, police led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) are on his tail, Will ends up kidnapping Sylvia, daughter of Phillipe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), a wealthy owner of Timeshares (you get the idea) and they begin a criminal spree of... well this is where the movie really falls apart.

 I'm willing to overlook stupid things like Timekeepers and Minutemen and the fact that there's a loan agency called Timeshares, but all In Time really seems to exist for is to criticize the idea that the wealthy have power and they use the police and gangs to maintain it (the Minutemen and the Timekeepers are both in the pocket of a consortium of elite who control "Time Zones" around the world). At some point the film makes a tonal shift from dystopia to comedy as Will and Sylvia become a futuristic Bonnie and Clyde, robbing banks and taking "time." They give it to the masses and Leon complains that they're making things worse. Rinse, repeat.

 After Will gets his century from Henry we realize that Niccol didn't actually know what he wanted to do with the movie, so Timberlake meanders around New Greenwich without much of a purpose until he wanders into a casino and meets Kartheiser's Weis while playing poker. Timberlake and Seyfried have zero chemistry and their characters don't serve any purpose other than to say things like "I'd say give me your money or your life, but since your money is your life..." (actual quote from the film) and to talk about how the system is unfair. Niccol planned things out so poorly that his only solution for the evil elite when Will and Sylvia steal a million years is for them just to give up. Not only did I not believe that's what would happen, but he continues to push this bone-headed theory that Will and Sylvia could continue to rob banks even though they defeated one Timekeeper.

 It's not as though I'm siding with the "elite" of the film, because their flimsy logic that Will and Sylvia can just continue what they're doing and disrupt the entire system while the rest of the masses wait to be "saved" by a pair of dystopian Robin Hoods. Under any kind of scrutiny, In Time fails to make even the slightest logical sense, let alone taken simply on the terms the film presents. Why it becomes a comedy in the middle of the film and then switches to an action movie at the end doesn't make any sense, nor does the flimsy logic behind why Sylvia switches from kidnapee to bank robber. Nothing about In Time works, despite the fact that there's talent in front of and behind the camera. It's obvious, noisy, schizophrenic, and lazy. That's a shame, because any time a movie makes me wish I'd seen the prequel to The Thing instead it has to be really lousy.

1 comment:

Amy said...

I was excited about the movie because the premise seemed so interesting, but I was ultimately disappointed. The movie fell apart for me and just started not to make any sense when Timberlake kidnapped Seyfried. Also, I thought Seyfried did a terrible job. Maybe she and Olivia Wilde should have switched roles.