Time is money. This driving mantra for Western culture is turned into a full-blown science-fiction action-thriller in Andrew Niccol's latest film, In Time. Niccol is no stranger to sci-fi, having written The Truman Show and Gattaca. While In Time has a sharp young cast, a visionary writer-director and an intriguing premise - it's not worth your time.
We're presented with a not-too-distant future where money has been converted into time and people have been genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 for population control. Immortality is possible thanks to the new currency and class structures still exist between those literally living from day-to-day and the elite, whose biological clocks have centuries remaining. Will Salas (Timberlake), a man accused of murder finds himself on-the-run with a hostage, who can help him stay hours ahead of the time-keeper authorities.
In Time has a sharp contemporary cast. Justin Timberlake has been steam-rolling through movies ever since that surprisingly adept turn in David Fincher's award-winning The Social Network. In Time gives the pop-turn-movie-star a chance to extend his reach to include lead action star. He's supported by several other rising talents in Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Alex Pettyfer and Vincent Kartheiser. The ensemble is potent with an impressive array of shared blockbuster credits.
Andrew Niccol leads the charge, armed with the experience from several critically-acclaimed high profile films, making him a respected and bankable writing/directing option. Niccol knows how to dress a film and has given In Time a sleek finesse reminiscent of Inception, Minority Report and his own film Gattaca. The cold, clinical and futuristic atmosphere is supported by strong production values, functional CGI and a good-looking cast. The premise of literally turning time into money seems obvious, but sets the scene for what could have been a science-fiction classic.
Unfortunately, In Time will not be accused of being out-of-time. The casting emphasises this point, taking a bit of a gamble with Timberlake, who just seems a bit too soft to be taking on a typical Hitchcockian lead. He's not a Cary Grant, a Tom Cruise, a Bruce Willis or a Jason Statham and while he can move, In Time doesn't give him the opportunity to get physical. He just doesn't seem to have that dark edge.
The co-lead chemistry with Amanda Seyfried doesn't really help matters much either. Her hairstyle distracts from her performance and she just seems too concerned with appearance over staying alive. The two make a cute romantic couple, but would be more suited to the romantic comedy genre than trying to outrun the law. They eventually get in tune with each other, when lighter comic intentional humour strikes - just reiterating the point that they would be more comfortable in comedy, drama or romance.
Cillian Murphy also just seems a bit out-of-place as the head timekeeper. He's no Agent Smith and while tenacious, there's no real intimidation factor at play. Alex Pettyfer was better in I Am Number Four and doesn't seem to have the chops to pull off a thug and Vincent Kartheiser is the only actor that seems to deliver on performance as the refined rich old guy in a 25-year-old's skin. While marred by some inconsistent performances, In Time's pacing keeps a hold on the audience as one scene races to another.
What develops is a Bonnie & Clyde style heist crime/thriller set in the near-perfect utopian world of Gattaca. It's as if Will Salas has discovered he was Robin Hood in a previous life as the sexy runaways get up to mischief with Daddy's time banks and a class war ensues. Niccol presents the story, but there's little to no attempt to delve into the philosophy, psychology or insights of the world. The surface-skimming approach keeps things lightweight from story through to characters, making it all seem a bit flimsy and too easy as a concept.
While laden with potential for greatness, something just didn't click and In Time just doesn't seem to be in-sync with the audience, offering an inadequate climax and half-baked resolution to a slick, yet heavy-handed production. The aesthetics offer eye candy, but the entertainment factor is superficial, lacks spark and seems to be going through the motions. It's a tragedy to see such collective talent amount to a less-than.
The bottom line: Disappointing.