Time is the currency in this retro-futuristic thriller from Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) and, rich or poor, everyone is guaranteed a beautiful corpse. Aging stops at 25 in this world. After that, both your lifestyle and lifespan are determined by how many minutes you can afford. The poor live anxious lives in ghetto “time-zones” and die young. The rich are apathetic, corrupt, and immortal. Subtle commentary on the class system, right?
Justin Timberlake (Social Network) plays Will Salas, a destitute young man on the run from the “Timekeepers” after inheriting a suspiciously generous amount of time from a dead man. Hunted by Timekeeper Leon, played with vicious efficiency by Cillian Murphy (Inception), Salas turns to Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the wayward daughter of the affluent and deathless Philippe Weis, to assist his fight against the oppression of the lower classes.
My first question, before seeing the film, was “Can a cast comprised almost entirely of twenty-somethings (and a few cheating thirty-somethings) carry a large-scale sci-fi epic?” The results are mixed. The film is too glossy overall to convey the grit of dangerous slums and their weary inhabitants and, with a few shining exceptions (Murphy and Vincent Kartheiser), the characters just don’t manage to feign years unwritten on their faces. The shiny presentation works wonderfully when we observe the excess of the indifferent upper class. Casinos where players can gamble their entire lives away, highly stylized fashion and architecture, wealthy citizens terrified of risks and protected by armed guards…that world is beautifully realized.
In the end, Niccol builds an entire society around an exceptionally clever premise and explores it from every angle. Unfortunately, the cool concept doesn’t quite stretch into a successful full-length feature. More character development is needed to accept Timberlake as the rugged hero, sympathize with Seyfried’s spoiled rich girl with a heart of gold, and invest in the class struggle. It’s a completely adequate sci-fi thriller and not much more.
In Time opens in Philly-area theaters today.