Justin Timberlake seems to be making a decent go of things in the transition from pop star to Hollywood actor, more so than other musically inclined acting wannabes. Trouble is, whilst he’s not exactly a terrible actor, he can be bland, and lacking in charisma. He doesn’t seem to be the sort of actor who can rise above mediocre material. However, on the evidence of In Time, nor can Amanda Seyfried.
And In Time, no doubt about it, is mediocre material. It’s the near future, a time where mobile phones have been outlawed. Actually, they haven’t. I think, for reasons that are never explained, they’ve just never been invented. Not even the rich elite have them. I felt like I was watching Soylent Green all over again. So is this some sort of parallel future universe? Possibly.
Anyway, everyone pays for everything in “time”, rather than dollar bills or pound coins. Fancy a sandwich? That’ll cost you a couple of minutes. What about that cool looking sports car? 59 years mate, and I’m cuttin’ me own throat. Time is a valuable commodity, more than ever. Thanks to genetic meddling, people can never physically age above 25. But they can top up their body clock — a glow in the dark digital readout on one forearm — that helps them live, essentially, forever.
Split into time zones, the future city of In Time is your classic dystopian nightmare, the rich sitting at the top, the poor rolling around in their own shit at the bottom. The only difference here, is that even those at the bottom of the food chain tend to look young, buff, and impeccably turned out. This has the unfortunate side effect of making their plight — they often only have a day of time to play with, at best — appear somehow less urgent than it should be. Even as body clocks are shown counting dangerously close to zero, I felt these athletic Hollywood types would maybe pull a miracle out of nowhere and survive. The tension should be unbearable. It isn’t.
Everyone looking 25 also leads to some confusing, inconsistent acting. For instance, Alex Pettyfer is supposed to be an elderly gangster, but he just plays it like a cocky 25-year-old. You’d never guess he was getting on in years, judging by his mannerisms. Olivia Wilde, playing Timberlake’s mum, at least tries to act “older”.
As for the rich folk of the story, they generally just act bored. Understandable, as the point being made is that if you have centuries of time to play with, you lose the energy and drive that an 80 year lifespan would give you (I would probably get up at 4pm instead of noon, for example). When Timberlake meets up with rich girl, Amanda Seyfried, he’s supposed to be the catalyst that shocks her out of her stupor. Seyfried’s heart never seems in it though, and any change seems sudden, and too obviously scripted. There’s not a great deal of chemistry between her and Timberlake. I thought she still looked a bit bored at the end of it all.
So what sort of film is it? In Time can never make its mind up. Is it a dazzling expose of how the rich exploit the poor? Not really. It didn’t tell me anything I already know. Is it a futuristic action extravaganza with cool guns and even cooler car chases? Not really. The action is poorly staged, nearly slipping into reverse, let alone hitting high gear. It also includes perhaps the most hilariously bad car crash of recent times. Look for it on Youtube, and be amazed.
The idea that “time is money”, quite literally, is not a bad concept. But director Andrew Niccol delivers an often boring, deeply average film off the back of it. Unfortunately, it cost me 109 minutes of my life to find that out.