In Time
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In Time



There is a very old saying that ‘time is money’. Most likely it came into popular use during the post industrial revolution rise of the labor unions when the workers pressed the fact that the tome they spent on the job was worth a descent wage. In any case it has remained a saying until filmmaker Andrew Niccol decided to explore a universe where those few words are a deadly accurate description of humanity’s plight. It should be noted that there was a suit was filed by one of the most famous science fiction writers around, Harlan Ellison. Eventually he agreed to drop the suit without screen credit or financial consideration. Considering Ellison’s perchance for setting a piece in a caste driven dystopia I could see where such an action might give the producers pause. In any successful dystopian story the writer takes a real element of our society and through the time honored literary device known as reductio ad absurdum, takes it to incredible lengths. Unfortunately the film is overly ambitious infusing several socio-political themes crowding the overall focus of the movie. Ironically each element used has been the foundation of anther similar types of movies. Included in this plot point cornucopia are infatuation with physical beauty, youth and, the ever popular wealth. The world is divided along the familiar lines of those who have stepping on those down below. In a little touch of irony the subject of this film would dove tail nicely with the current ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement protesting the discrepancy between the top 1% that control everything and their foot stool, the lower 99%. The theatrical release of the film missed the height of the movement’s press cycle but a matter of months. On the up side the connection is timelier for this DVD/Blu-ray release. The movie is flawed in some technical respects but remains enjoyable thanks to an intriguing premise and a well selected cast. If you are considering making a movie where being attractive is one of the dividing factors then you couldn’t ask for a better looking cast that can actually act. This film could have come closer to reaching its potential but is still comes in as a good action oriented popcorn flick.

The film takes place in 2161. At point genetic research has advanced to the point where the human genome could be manipulated altering the very nature of humanity. One of the profound alterations was to stop aging at twenty five. This boon comes with a serious price. Upon reaching their 25th birthday there is only one more year of life. Your life span begins to count down from 525,600 minutes. In order to survive past that it is necessary to gain additional time to supplement your dwindling supply. This ‘Living Time’ is monitored through an implant that provides a digital readout of the time you have left. It also allows the individual to transfer time between his ‘account’ and others. The society bifurcates into two major castes each residing in their own 'Time Zone’. In the luxurious city of New Greenwich lives the mostly middle aged and elderly live. They are wealthy and powerful with literally all the time in the world, their accumulation of time allows them to live for centuries. Then there are ghettos like Dayton. These run down areas are predominately populated by the disenfranchised youth who are gouged out of their time in order to pay for necessities. Most are forced to take menial jobs in order to earn enough time to make it through until tomorrow.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a twenty eight year old man who ekes out a living working in a factory. Like most everyone he is counting down the time registered on his arm. One day fate would intervene. He happens upon a time rich man, Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who is 105 and has the habit of flaunting his vast amount of time to the poor. Salas interrupts a ‘time mugging’ by Fortis (Alex Pettyfer), who works for a middle aged gang called ‘The Minutemen’. Salas gets Hamilton to safety and learns about a sinister conspiracy. There is more than enough time for everyone to live long lives but in order for a few to be immortal many must die. That night Hamilton transfer all but a few minutes to Salas, over 115 years, before going off to let his clock run out in peace. Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) is a form of police officer called a ‘Timekeeper’ suspects will of killing Hamilton for his vast wealth of time. Things get more complicated for will when his mother (Olivia Wilde) times out after falling short of the time necessary to pay for a busride to work. Will sets out for New Greenwich with the oldest motivation ever clouding his mind; revenge.

In providing the script Andrew Niccol brushes the hem of a socially important modern parable but in his zeal to lay bare the foibles of our culture it seems he sacrificed the time that would best go to triage. The story is wonderfully textured but in this case the individual threads continue to stand out instead of blending into a stronger central narrative. There is the generation gap between young and old, the socialist favorite mistreatment of the workers and the ideology of an attractiveness oriented ruling class. The main point of man using technology to alter the very fabric of nature is somehow overwhelmed in the shuffle. Perhaps it’s a background in genetics that colors my vantage point but I felt the main concern in this society is one that has generated most of the great dystopian epic; the misuse of technology. Time has always been a great equalizer. No matter how wealthy or powerful it is impossible to obtain more than you allotment. In this society time has literally become the coin of the realm and like most things that are necessary to survive and easily rationed becomes the means of oppression. The filmmaker started out on this track nicely but the focus softened with the inclusion of extraneous side plots. Even with that said although falling short of its potential it is still a highly entertaining movie.

Posted 01/04/12

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