The new sci-fi thriller In Time — starring Amanda Seyfried and Justin Timberlake as lovers, and House beauty Olivia Wilde as Timberlake's mother — is set in a near future in which all humans are engineered to stop aging at 25. It's possible to live longer than that, with your body preserved as a sprightly twentysomething, but only if you can afford it. The twist: There is no money; currency is time. Workers are paid in minutes, which they spend on everything from loan payments to a cup of coffee. The rich live in youthful style for centuries, while poor over-25s barely earn enough time to buy dinner and live another day. Critics agree that it's an intriguing premise. But is it well executed?
Nope. The clichés ruin it: The film's writer-director Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Gattaca) is "kicking at a couple of interesting themes here," like our culture's obsession with youth and tendency toward class warfare, says Steven Rea at The Philadelphia Inquirer, but his take is superficial. In Time doesn't delve deeply into these ideas, instead reverting to "obvious and repetitive" thriller conventions. The film becomes a Bonnie and Clyde–like chase flick when Timberlake's character, wrongly accused of a crime, runs off with Seyfried. The result: Thwarted promise — "Philip K. Dick for knuckleheads."
"A timely premise about rich and poor, dumbed down"
And that's not the only problem: "Frustratingly, Niccol's technique isn't up to his premise," says Michael Phillips at the Chicago Tribune. The story stretches far longer than it should, causing the film to drag. The action sequences lack the necessary energy, while the expository dialogue bogs the film down. "I like a lot of the film despite its drawbacks," but In Time would have been much better if it were speedier and had "a little zap."
"In Time: When 'time is money' is more than a cliche"
Come on. This film is actually quite good: The fascinating central conceit of In Time would make for "a satisfying picture" any day, says Mick LaSalle at The San Francisco Chronicle. But given the times we live in — with a crippling recession and fed-up protesters occupying Wall Street — the film becomes "an extended metaphor about the state of the economy." Every aspect of the time-is-money premise is meticulously thought out, with each character boasting "compelling motives" for acting as he does. "You can make all the documentaries you want about the banking crisis, and yet somehow In Time says it all with more force."
"In Time review: Time is money. Don't run out."
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