director Andrew Niccol
Time is money, so the saying goes. In writer/director Andrew Niccol’s science fiction film In Time, that commodification is made literal. The implications abound. For instance, when you run out of time, you stop dead, no matter how old you are. As in the real world, where the rich have most of the money while the poor have little to none, so in this future world, the rich have all the time in the world and the poor struggle day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute.
In that sense, the film makes it most poignant critiques regarding the haves versus the have-nots as well as in the puns and jokes about literalizing the metaphor of time and money. In the world of the film, genetic engineering has gotten so advanced that people age until they are 25 and then have one year left and then die unless they have more time. So there are people over 100 years old who still look and “are” 25, generations of a family all played by people of the same age. The amount of time one has is imprinted on one’s arm in glowing green light. In this world, that is what it’s all about.
It’s kind of bizarre, how no other technology seems to have advanced. In fact, some of it seems to have regressed (such as telephones). In fact, it’s like the time industry is the only industry. Even the police have their primary function as timekeepers. What about drugs and mental illness, interpersonal violence, other diseases of the flesh? Not relevant here.
This action/adventure flick, starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried demands attention to only the things that the film holds pertinent. And in that sense, if you can follow this slim line of reasoning, it’s entertaining enough. But frankly this is weak speculative fiction, far from sophisticated, far from getting one to suspend all other disbelief to just dig in, enjoy the ride, and digest the social criticism.
Niccol, whose 1997 film, Gattaca, dealt with a similarly managed future, instead of time being of the essence, rather biological purity, genetic perfection was the goal of the future world. The two films share a parallel in imagining a future when beauty and perfection are scientifically crafted. In Time has perhaps a more Logan’s Run (1976) slant on it.
The concept’s lack of sophistication is the film’s core weakness, which reflects its otherwise middling production.