In Time (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

In Time (2011)

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I've always had a respect for science fiction authors for being able to tackle deep cultural and philosophical issues while making their audiences believe they're enjoying a mindless popcorn flick. A film about the dangers of the privatization of public services along with a commentary on the nature of the mind and the soul? Sounds pretty dull, but if it's buried under enough blood and bullets it just might get people interested (hyperlink to Robocop trailer).

In Time follows poor kid Will (Justin Timberlake) in a futuristic society where all cash has been replaced by units of time that keep the population alive. When Will is given a century worth of time from a man who wants to die, he sets off a chain of events that threaten to topple the social-economic balance of the world. Eventually he teams up with rich girl (Amanda Seyfried) and faster than you can say “Occupy Wall Street” the two become a pair of Bonnie and Clyde-esque“time robbers,” intent on freeing the masses from corporate enslavement while being pursued by a “Time Keeper” (Cillian Murphy).

Take the blue pill...wait, wrong film.

In case you couldn't guess from that quick synopsis or the trailers, In Time is a very thinly veiled allegory for the current economic crisis. It also features several puns involving “time.” And yet despite the film's lack of tact, I found myself really enjoying the film. I think a big part of this is how realized and natural the film-world feels. A lot of this is due to the special effects, or rather, the lack thereof.

In Time has this really great late 70s early 80s “low-tech” sci-fi feel to it. That isn't to say that the special effects looked cheap, mind you, but that the special effects were kept appropriately subtle. It has the sterile, vaguely post-modern look of such films as THX 1138 or the sci-fi spoof Sleeper (sans robotic dogs). Aside from glowing digital watch/tattoos and “magic time units” that keep both the characters and their future economy alive, there's hardly anything “futuristic” about this film. Even the cars are just muscle cars painted matte black with some Knight Rider lights affixed to the hood (another fun throw-back to Robocop).

Every film I review must feature a shot of two people driving in a car. It's in my contract.

And this was w holey to the film's benefit. I'm not some film-snob who can't appreciate a good popcorn flick with flying cars and aliens and lasers, but all-too-often the overall effect of the film feels hollow. You can tell the writers were more concerned with designing aliens or explosions than the story or characters and the experience becomes colorful but bland (see: Avatar). In Time might have some fairly simple ideas, but it lets those ideas speak for themselves. Furthermore, the world seemed believable, perhaps because of the lack of any specific date other than “near future” and subdued special effects.

While the film's main drive is at time annoyingly obvious, there is something beyond the obvious OWS analogy. There's a slightly more subtle comment about how modern society is in increasingly hectic. It's almost we fear that if we slow down, we'll die. In Time simply asks what would happen if that phrase were taken literally.

Of course the film isn't without flaws. The rich are portrayed as just a bit too evil for my liking. No one twirls his mustache while kicking a puppy and cackling manically, but you can tell that they really want to. Also, you can call me a cynic, but it seemed a little disingenuous for a film about a society on the brink of a economic and social collapse to end of such a high note.

Wait a minute, there's no time growing in that field. What's that plane....LOOK OUT!!

Similarly, I felt that Cillian Murphy's character could have been fleshed out a bit more. There were moments where his character almost seemed conflicted between his duty and his morals, but ultimately he was just another Evil Sheriff lackey for the evil capitalist antagonists.

Will In Time become as celebrated, well regarded and cherished as Blade Runner or Robocop? Probably not, but there's still a lot to like about this film. There's a sort of timeless to it. If you're a sci-fi fan who's tired of lasers and aliens and wants something with a bit more substance, In Time is well worth your time.

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Posted by Jacob

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  1. Oh God, just realized that last sentence is a pun. Just take away my reviewing license, I don’t deserve it anymore.

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