Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"In Time" (2011)

Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy
Written and directed by Andrew Niccol
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, sex
Running Time: 109 Minutes

In the future, human beings are genetically engineered to stop aging at the age of 25. But, time has become the new currency. The more you have, the longer you live. You use it to pay for everything, your bills, your groceries.  And when you go broke... you die.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a factory worker in a poor zone called Dayton. He lives with his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde). One night while out at a bar, Will rescues a rich man, Hamilton (Matt Bomer) from muggers. But Hamilton reveals that wants to commit suicide. He gives will a century, then times himself out. Will can't believe how rich he is, and plans to give his best friend a decade and then take his mother into the rich zone known as Greenwich. Unfortunately, when Rachel misses the bus because she doesn't have enough time to pay for the ride, she doesn't make it.  Enraged, Will heads into Greenwich with his newfound fortune.

Soon he's dressed in nice clothes and driving a slick car. He heads to the casino and wins over a thousand years in a poker game against Phillip Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), one of the richest and most powerful men on the planet. Weis takes a liking to Will, and introduces him to his daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Sylvia invites Will to a party at their house the next evening. When Will arrives at the party, he and Sylvia begin to develop a romantic entanglement.

But when the detective investigating Hamilton's death arrives to arrest Will, he takes her hostage. Soon the two are running for their lives in the ghetto, and Sylvia joins Will on his quest to balance the scales by taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

"In Time" is a cool concept that never quite gets off the ground. The film is competently made in a technical sense, but lacks any real artistry, just as the script has a few clever ideas but never really does anything special with them. The whole thing is watchable, but not particularly thrilling or engaging, and far from must-see viewing.

Part of the problem is that the conceit of having young actors playing elderly characters doesn't quite work the way the script seems to want it to. Before killing himself, Hamilton tells Will that while the body doesn't age, the mind still does. He claims that it gets tired, that he's just plain done with living after all those years. Okay, sure, but none of the old people in this movie really act like old people... they act like young people who say that they're actually old. There's a minor character who is essentially a gangster, but aside from announcing the fact that he's apparently middle-aged, there's nothing about him that actually seems old or world-weary in the sense that Hamilton is talking about. Further, Vincent Kartheiser plays Weis like a smarmy rich guy, he talks about all his years and experience, but he still comes across like a 25-year-old.  The whole movie feels like the makers made sure to cast the prettiest people they could find without worrying about whether or not they could actually inhabit their characters.

Which brings us to Timberlake and Seyfried, typically two stars who are rather capable. Timberlake should stick to comedy. There's something about him, maybe it's his voice, that rings hollow as an action star. He feels out of his depth here. Seyfried gets little to do that's of any worth. She mostly gets dragged around by Timberlake, at first complaining about all the poor people, then being indignant about her father's same disdain for them. She also runs a lot... in high heels.

Cillian Murphy plays the detective, Leon, as the only character in the film who seems like his age and experience mean something. He walks circles around his younger cohorts, and when he snaps about his decades of experience, he means it. The script also gives him some interesting quirks, as the police force is kept in check by rarely giving its officers more than a couple hours at a time.

Visually, the movie is something of a mixed bag. Because of its low budget, there's little in the way of wild technology in this future world. Everyone has glowing digital clocks on their arms, but even though it's a couple centuries down the road from now, people are also driving 20th century cars for some reason. They shoot 20th century guns. They even use pay phones. The poor zone of Will's hometown is drenched in warm orange colors, while the rich zone has lots of steel blue. It's all very basic, and not particularly interesting.

So "In Time" has some neat ideas, but the film itself turns out to be thoroughly "meh."