By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
Benjamin Franklin said it first: “Time is money.”
Well, here’s a movie that literally applies that truism and offers an oblique take on the disparity between rich and poor that, given what’s going on in the world right now, gives the film an intriguing timeliness.
It’s In Time. And, boy, is time ever money in that world.
In Time is a serviceable science fiction thriller, set in Dayton in the not-too-distant future, about an imagined dystopian society in which people have a set amount of time that they can live, but that also be revoked by the authorities.
We’re in a future when the aging gene has been switched off: everybody essentially stops aging at 25 and has a digital clock embedded on their forearm displaying just how long they will live. You can transfer money (that is, time) from someone else’s arm to yours, but when your time is up, you instantly die — which, come to think of it, isn’t so different from our current existential tragedy.
So time has become the currency people use to pay for everything. Thus the rich can live forever if they want to, while everyone else must work hard to buy themselves extra time.
And although lots of folks strive for immortality, overpopulation is avoided because the authorities keep raising the cost of living.
Justin Timberlake plays a poor young man named Will Salas, who lives in the ghetto zone with his struggling-to-get-by mother, played by Olivia Wilde, even if she doesn’t look like his mother because she stopped aging at 25.
But Will inherits a fortune in time when an upper-class gentleman — who is well over a hundred years old and has decided that that’s more than long enough and so bequeaths his time fortune to Will — turns up dead.
Now Will is one of the rich folks.
But just as quickly, Will is accused of the gentleman’s murder and is forced to go on the run to get away from the Timekeepers, the corrupt police force (including Cillian Murphy as Leon Jaegar) and the Minutemen, a group of middle-aged hoodlums (led by 75-year-old Fortis, played by Alex Pettyfer).
Both are hot on Will’s trail.
So Will, to live, goes to the rich zone, buys a new sports car, and meets Sylvia Weis, a rebellious heiress played by Amanda Seyfried, whose father is so wealthy that he controls the time balance and whom Will initially takes hostage but who becomes his partner in crime.
Together, to change a system in which one percent of the population controls a disproportionate share of the time/wealth and the other 99 percent struggle from paycheck to paycheck (sound familiar?), they become a Bonnie and Clyde for their era, and, Robin Hood-style, redistribute the wealth — that is, time — by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
New Zealand-born writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Simone, Lord of War), a sci-fi specialist, works from his own clever concept, an interesting premise that holds up surprisingly effectively over the course of the film.
Suspension of disbelief, always a challenge in science fiction, is achieved here despite the abundance of unanswered questions about just how things work in this world.
The versatile Timberlake continues to impress with his natural screen presence, this time as an action hero, which he manages to thrive in even when the not-quite-plausible script lets him down.
So we’ll count down 2½ stars out of 4. For Timberlake fans, this one’s Justin time. But for anyone else, just In Time is a waste of neither your time nor your money.