Monday, October 31, 2011

In Time - 2011

"In Time" - 2011
Dir. by Andrew Niccol - 1 hr. 49 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

"In Time" is a throwback sci-fi movie, in the best way possible.  It's got the same sort of great high concept that  movies of it's ilk from the 1970's had, with a more modern execution.  The metaphor that holds the movie together (time as currency) is easy to grasp, and the consequences of this system seem both fully formed and very timely.

In this world, time is literally money.  People live for their first twenty-five years for free, and then a meter in their forearm starts ticking.  They stop aging at that point, and they get one year of currency to start with.  When their meter hits zero, they die immediately.  But if you don't hit zero, you live as long as you can manage, forever twenty-five in appearance.  In a larger sense, the world is broken down into "time zones," which is an approximate class system.  In order to travel from one time zone to another, you have to pay, and pay an amount that pretty much keeps everyone exactly where they start.  Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in the ghetto, living day to day, in an apartment with his mother (Olivia Wilde).  He works at a factory making bank devices that hold time.

Unwinding in a bar one night, a rich stranger (he's got over a century on his meter) nearly gets caught by a gang of thieves, but Will helps him escape and hide.  The man has lived for over one-hundred years and doesn't want to live anymore.  Long story short, the man gifts Will all of his time while Will is sleeping, and zeros out off of a bridge.  This transfer of time (and the suspicious death of the man, a very famous and wealthy man slumming in the wrong time zone) raises the attention of the Timekeepers, which seems to be the only real police in existence.  Timekeeper Raymond Leon has been on the job for fifty years, and takes on the Will Salas case.

There are two aspects to this film that I really enjoyed.  In the tradition of science fiction, "In Time" takes a look at a current situation through allegory.  And this is a very timely movie, taking a hard look at the class stratification and removing poisonous contemporary politics from the discussion.  What's invisible in our world is made visible here through the time zones.  They're nearly impossible to get out of for a variety of reasons (business manipulating prices to keep people mired, ghetto residents preying on one another, lack of opportunities in general).  The wealthy take the view that the lower classes exist so that the rich may be immortal.  The classes don't merely have a difference of opinion, they're diametrically opposed.  Unfortunately, the poor are held down so that nothing can ever change.  Timberlake's character's populist views run in his family, and his actions also play on both sides of the idea of being able to change your own destiny (if you believe in such things).

The other aspect of the film that I really enjoyed was the visual approach taken.  Not only do the time zones have distinct looks, everything in this world feels custom.  Details like the toll booths (sort of) are different than anything you'd see in reality - rather than a mechanical arm, there's a sort of rolling cement device.  The buildings are fantastic, and the automobiles are even better.  The cars are customized, clearly starting with real cars, but the grills and details are changed so that it's like a slightly alternate reality.  The entire world is stylized in a consistent, pleasing way.

The story plays out somewhere in-between "Logan's Run" and "Bonnie and Clyde," which is a solid place to be.  It's always more interesting when the characters are trying to uphold what they think is right, even if that's not the same thing from character to character.  The Timekeepers are just trying to uphold the system, even if they're misguided or confused at times.  Will Salas wants to upend the system that's keeping people down to benefit a lucky few.  Even the wealthy have a view that makes sense to them.  So instead of a black and white world, you've just got people with competing interests, also competing to make those interests reality.  Between the timeliness of the subject matter, having a solid allegory, and the interesting visual approach, "In Time" is a fun ride.

4 / 5 - Theatre

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