The difference between watching a movie and watching a movie as part of an exclusive avant-première night is that the latter has a fairer share of people who can’t leave their mobile phone alone. Time is apparently not in their hands. In case of the film being In Time, that’s a lovely case of irony. In any case, it’s annoying for any other moviegoer. But before we get to the part where I would like to reinstate the death penalty for this sort of asocial morons, let’s go to the review of the movie and hope I will forget about it. Oh, and about what happened during Crazy, stupid, love. (which happened in the same week, no less) … anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yes, a movie. You know, that thing you see in the background of all those flashing phones… (That’s enough, Ed.)*
In Time is the latest release by Andrew Niccol. The film takes us to the future, where the current troubles of the Euro zone have been solved, it seems: the new and only currency is time. Well, at least in the US: as ever so often, this sort of film carefully decides not to mention any other country in the world. We’re probably dead to them. Or maybe just dead in general. Bloody Americans. (That’s enough anti-American sentiment: next thing you’ll get more hatemail telling you are anti-capitalist, Ed.)
No, Ed., that’s where you are wrong: the film itself divides the world (read: the US) into richer and poorer parts – or “time zones” and throughout the movie there’s a clear message of “Wouldn’t it all be dandier if the wealth – read: time – would be distributed over all the time zones? It’s almost as if Michael Moore wrote the screenplay.
No Michael Moore in sight, but we do get to see Justin Timberlake. Timberlake – I must’ve been sick the day he was declared a bonafide actor – is the protagonist. Like so many others in the film, he looks 25. Well, he doesn’t, but let’s pretend he does. That’s because the moment you turn 25 the clock on your arm starts counting down to zero. If you want to stay alive, you’ll have to earn more money (read: time) and as a result you may get as old as you want to, but you’ll never look a day older than 25. The best example of this is when Timberlake’s character meets the Weis family and is introduced to the mother, the wife and the daughter. All look no older than 25.
That’s mainly because women are forced to be sexy in the movie industry. They can’t look too old or Justin Timberlake might not be interested in tearing their blouses off. (Is anyone else still annoyed that puritan America has always looked down on Janet Jackson for having a nipple but not to the guy who actually tore the dress open? I am. Especially since he’s allegedly become this terrific actor.) And whereas In Time‘s women mainly have to look nice, the men have no trouble looking considerably older: they are chosen for their statuses. There’s the guy from Nipplegate, that guy from The Big Bang Theory (Johnny Galecki) and the sleazy bastard from Mad Men (Vincent Karthuiser). Because in the day and age where people tend to stay at home and watch tv rather than going out for a movie, there’s no better cast than people you only know from the telly. Anyway, those three and the main Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy, aged 35) are about as convincingly looking 25 as the casts of Buffy and Beverly Hills 90210 in their attempts to look 16.
Anyway, let’s pretend we haven’t noticed this and go to the plot of In Time. The rich live in the better time zones and the poorer people live in the ghettos. Life in the ghetto is hard: time costs money and time seems to become more expensive every day. One day a bus fare will cost you an hour of your life, the next day it’s two hours. Even worse, the ghetto seems to be full of thugs who come and steal your precious time from you. Will Galas (Timberlake) hopes that one day he is able to take his mother to the better zones and it seems like time is on his side (pun not intended). Galas meets a man who’s so tired of life he goes to a dirty bar in the hope of being killed by thugs. Instead, his life is saved by Galas. The next morning Galas wakes up and notices the rich guy has donated most of his money. He just kept enough to go outside and watch the sunrise. Will wakes up just in time to see that moment. If anything, that’s the most annoying part of In Time: a lot of things in the film seem to happen in the climatic final seconds. After a while, this becomes quite tedious.
Galas can’t take his mother to the richest zone: she didn’t have enough time left to take the bus and she and Will run towards each other. He fails to save her by just one second. (Told you…) Galas swears to take revenge on the powers that be and orders a cab to the richest zone, where he’s quickly spotted by a mysterious woman (Amanda Seyfried). It turns out she’s the daughter of Weis, the man who distributes time and, lo and behold, the powers that be think something must be done about Galas. Because the rich must remain rich and the poor have to struggle in order to survive. So the time keepers, the people who are in charge of ensuring time stays in the correct zones, hunt Galas down. Will Galas abducts Weis’s daughter and within a day she has enough sympathy for him to become the future day Robin Hood and go and rob time, Bonnie and Clyde style.
At this point, it might have become clear that In Time doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny. Which is a shame because, at the centre of the film, there is enough material for a brainy blockbuster. But the brains were thrown out of the window, in favour of tv celebrities, cardboard chases and bad guys, a non-discussion about our financial system and a tendency to bend the plot so much everything seems to happen in the last seconds.
One also semi-failed sci-fi movie In Time reminded me of was Gattaca and, wouldn’t you know it, that was also written and directed by Niccol. If you’ve seen Gattaca and remember its flaws, you know what to expect here. On the plus side: the time effect on the arms is a great touch. And some of the cast doesn’t feel out of place: Karthuiser is typecast to be as slick as his Mad Men character and again Amanda Seyfried doesn’t feel out of place. Now for someone to cast her in a superb movie… – yes, let’s end on a weak pun – it’s about time.
In Time opens in Belgian cinemas on 23 November. It’s already released in the UK and US. It’ll open in most countries between November and January.
* The satirical magazine Private Eye exists 50 years. This was the Avenue’s way of saying “Happy birthday, mag!” (That’s enough flattery, Ed.)