When time is literally money, heroes arise from the most unlikely place.
From the director of the vastly underrated Gattica and Lord of War and the writer of The Truman Show comes a new age Bonnie and Clyde film that is both fun and thought provoking. In Time is by no means a classic film, however, it does provide a fresh and original take on a genre that has been stagnant since Equilibrium was panned by critics in 2002. Andrew Niccol is no stranger to testing the limits of imagination. This film is no different.
In the future, humans have found a way of creating a class system based on life span in replacement of physical currency. Time is awarded to people as they work, trade, invest, or gamble. It is also used to make purchases. Time in this case, is literally the currency for the world. At age 25, a one year clock begins. Based on your life decisions and hard work, you can collect enough time to theoretically live forever. If the clock hits zero, times up, you’re dead. It’s a way to create a true class system through the currency of life. Those that live day to day are force into hard labor for little work in a slum called Dayton. Those that have collected enough time have distanced themselves in utopia called New Grenich. The viewer can expect a strong message of class superiority in comparison to current controversy of big business capitalism.
In summary, we find our protagonist Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network) running from the time police lead by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins) after an suspected murder. Living in the lower class district of Dayton with his mother, Salas helps aid a man with over a century of years collected. After saving this man from a gang called “the minute men”, Hamilton, played by Matt Bomer (White Collar), explains to Salas that saving up time to live forever has no meaning if not used for good. Salas is awarded the century and Hamilton dies in hopes that his time was given into the hands of good. This sends Salas into a tailspin. He wants to spend his money, gamble, and get the girl, but during his time as fugitive from the timekeeper police he slowly realizes the true meaning of his gift. Thus beginning his own Robin Hood tale along with the help of the most unlikely of partners, the wealthy and privileged Sylvia Weis portrayed by Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables).
When I sat down to watch this film for the first time, I was expecting nothing more than a chase film set in the future with a sci fi gimmick. However, I was pleasantly surprised with a slower paced drama rather than gut wrenching action sequences. The pace almost feels similar to that of Casino Royale, an action movie that focuses around character interaction rather than the explosians and city leveling most blockbusters are privy to these days. The entire first half of the film deals with the class system created between Dayton and New Grenich. It faces a similar discomfort when discussing the rich and poor in our very own world. The poor are there to live day to day, while the rich attempt the live forever by gathering up as must time as possible for themselves, and leaving a few petty hours per day to the people in the labor districts. Even the police are only allotted a certain stipend each day to continue their job of making sure time isn’t distributed where it isn’t supposed to. The film also deals with life and death itself. From a moral conservative view, this was the most fascinating element of a film. Even in our everyday life, what is the point of saving up all our money and goods if we refuse to help others with it? There are so many people in this world that believe money is the one thing that will make them happy. However, many of these same people will refuse to use their extreme wealth to actually make a positive difference in the world. An economy cannot thrive when the difference between the rich and poor are so great. I didn’t feel this movie is a slight against capitalism, just an insight at how we as Americans should look at our wealth as a value rather than a means to an end.
Although this movie is entertaining, interesting, and surprisingly deep, it is far from perfect. The flaws are glaring throughout. The first, is the lack of a proper score or soundtrack. This is just another popcorn flick that tried to get away with a low hum and some thrown together instruments to pass the time. Second, is the pacing. What starts out as a fantastic character driven social experiment ends up being a run of the mill Bonnie and Clyde with little resolve. The film switches gears just a little over halfway through to try and keep up the pace of your basic CSI episode. The best parts of the film are left in the dust of the high octane climax that is predictable even for the average movie goer. Finally, I’ll be the first to admit I do not think Justin Timberlake is a bad actor when given a typecast or supporting role. However, casting is the films greatest flaw. Although Cillian Murphy may be one of the five most underrated actors of our generation, his short amount of screen time cannot overcome the horrendously telegraphed and wooden portrayals of our central characters. There’s a reason Vincent Karthieser has done very little since his excellent portrayal of the entitled brat on Mad Men. Karthieser, Timberlake, and Seyfried struggle to give depth to the film’s most compelling characters.
In Time provides the same depth in story given to us time and time again by Andrew Niccol. From a Christian standpoint we can take away many lessons of greed and self-worth as we follow the controversial decisions of the protagonists from beginning to end. In the end, this film is nothing more than a great popcorn film when you want a movie with substance, but still want to turn your brain off halfway through and enjoy the simple nature of the chase.
In Time, 2011, Runtime: 110 minutes, Rated: PG-13