Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Produced by: Marc Abraham
Screenplay by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake
Music by: Craig Armstrong
Cinematography by: Roger Deakins
Editing by: Zach Staenberg
Studio(s): Regency Enterprises
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release date(s): October 28, 2011 (United States)
November 1, 2011 (United Kingdom)
Running time: 115 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $40 million
Box office revenue (as of publication): $62, 153, 268
For a change, I've actually kept good on my promise to get active and do more reviews. I can also promise you that this year I will have my 5th annual best and worst of the year on time before the Oscars, as I am already prepping it up. As such, I reckon that my post-Oscars break that I take every year will only last to April (at the latest), unlike the usual break 'til June. So, to those of you who have followed my rants and raves through the thick and often thin, I thank you very much.
Okay, forgetting my attempts to cheaply appeal to my readership, here is the review for the new science-fiction thriller In Time. Whether you know it or not, I'll say it again, I am a big science-fiction fan, and with this being directed by Andrew Niccol, who wrote The Truman Show and directed Gattaca, I was looking forward to seeing it. Also, it stars Justin Timberlake (who I am now very jealous of: he's already had his ex Cameron Diaz and Mila Kunis star 'alongside' him this year), Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy. Quick overview? In the year 2161, humans have been genetically altered to stop ageing once they reach twenty-five. As such, 'time' has replaced money as currency, and people gain more time through their jobs to stop themselves from 'timing out'/dying. Will Salas (Timberlake) saves the life of 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), who turns out to be disillusioned with the concept of immortality, and transfers his years to Salas. However, his suicide is seen by the authorities as murder, and Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) is on Salas' case in order to repossess the 'stolen' time.
To start off with what I like about the film, I must go with the central concept. Andrew Niccol constructs a science-fiction world that we can believe in as a potential reality. He plots out every little aspect, with details such as a minute being paid to use a pay-phone. Also, it speaks highly of a Hollywood film to take such a left-wing approach. We are so used to being subjected to middle-America neo-capitalism that we end up becoming numb to those film's politics. As such, Niccol's establishment of a class system, where people live in certain 'Time Zone's', and the police of the film ensuring that minutes are not stolen, though it is explicitly suggested that the rich, who are gambling in casino's with their many millennia, are all crooks anyway. Being a left-wing film does not buy it brownie points, but it certainly ensures that we at least are seeing something refreshing. Also integral to the establishment of the film's world is the production design and costumes. Going for the retro-futurist look was wise, for this is both a dystopian world, but one that easily recognisable as our own and more plausible than most science-fiction, which seem to have the idea that the world will be have reached a complete catastrophic point within ten years. Furthermore, this combination of things recognisable and not give the film a strong sense of visual style. This style is complimented by the cinematography of Roger Deakins. One of our great living cinematographers, Deakins handles with prowess his first work shot in digital, and ensures that we are engaged by the look of the film. Finally, there is perfectly serviceable work from the actors, Timberlake and Seyfried doing a good job in the main parts, while Cillian Murphy really steals the show as the veteran timekeeper Raymond Leon. Just looking at Murphy's facial expression's, despite his youth, gives the impression of a world-weary man in his fifties, and his terrific enunciation completes the picture, and one can't help but be reminded of Morgan Freeman in Se7en, although with a bit more doggedness and rule-bending when it comes to the job.
As I'm sure you can tell, unlike the rather unfair critical reception In Time has been receiving, I liked the film. However, it is doubtless that the film has its fair share of problems, and although I will get into detail, one word comes to mind when I think of the film's issues: compromised. The central concept, world and thematic content we are presented with showed me that this had the potential to be as savage a satire on consumerism and capitalism as RoboCop. However, unlike Paul Verhoeven's classic, which stands as one of the greatest films ever and is anything but compromised, In Time feels like a dog castrated of its dignity. Thus, while we have the interesting thematic content, we have a lot of Timberlake running and having his shirt off. We also have the obligatory car chase scene, the running on rooftops scene etc etc. All of this stuff seems to have been thrown in for the sake of pleasing the moneymen who the very film is slagging off. Look, if you are going to attempt to 'crash the system,' do it properly and without compromise. Artistic sacrifices have been made here by Niccol, and I find it all to be very disappointing. Also, in establishing the concept, Niccol does occasionally go into overkill. There really is no need for the unfathomable amount of puns and little nods towards time in the dialogue. These references make the film come across as contrived and forced. Also, the script, while containing obviously the concept and world that I like, is propagandist in manner, with some badly constructed character arcs that we have seen done a thousand times before, and usually better. Dialogue too fares no better, and structurally the whole film goes everywhere you expect to by the half way stage. The only part you can't guess ahead is the rather deflating ending, which seems to have come to life as a bookend to something that Niccol couldn't be bothered finishing. Finally, there is a car crash in the film that looks like something really terrible you would see off of an Asylum production for the SciFi channel.
There is much to admire with In Time. It contains a well-developed and believable world, helped to no end by the production design, costumes and cinematography by Roger Deakins. Furthermore, the leftist position that the film takes is daring for a studio film starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy, all of whom are good (particularly Murphy) in their roles. However, In Time is also a tragedy, for while being a good film, it is also highly compromised. Much of the things that keep the plot in motion just seem to be there for the sake of obligation, as though a film must have so many different checks on a list of things a should have. Niccol has disappointingly made a lot of artistic sacrifices, injected the film with a propagandist nature that comes across as forced and not satirical. The film's ending is also rather deflating, which is my general feeling when it comes to the film: it gets gradually worse as it goes along. I would normally recommend the film as it is good, except that it is so compromised that I can only really recommend that you go see RoboCop (again, if you have seen it already).
The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.1/10
The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Ready to relax (been busy like a motherfucker!)
P.S. Dear Justin Timberlake, please spread the love. You've dry-humped your ex Cameron Diaz (Bad Teacher), had a casual sex relationship with Mila Kunis (Friends With Benefits) and had Amanda Seyfried (In Time) go Stockholm on her rich daddy, and all in one year! I am serious when I say you are good in these films by the way, even if I am jealous, you lucky bastard!
Regards, The Thin White Dude
P.P.S. Dear Harlan Ellison, please shut up! I like your stuff man, but Jesus, enough is enough with the fucking lawsuits! Other people are allowed to have ideas: just because they share some similarities to your own doesn't mean they were stolen!