Judge Gordon Sullivan's clock stopped in 1997.
Our review of In Time, published February 16th, 2012, is also available.
Live forever or die trying.
2011 was the year of movies obsessed with time. Source Code showed us a relentless return to a single moment, while The Adjustment Bureau toyed with the idea that the future is ordained. Last in the pack is In Time, which uses time to tell a story of economic disparity in the future. It didn't have the indie cred of Source Code (which was directed by Duncan Jones of Moon fame) nor the star power of The Adjustment Bureau (since Matt Damon can more reliably open a film than Justin Timberlake), and looking at the domestic grosses it would appear that In Time lost out by being last to the party. But that's not the whole story. In the foreign market, In Time made the most of all three movies, almost triple its domestic box office. I'll discuss the significance of this fact a bit later, but suffice it to say that the disparity between foreign and domestic box office means the film warrants another look. This Blu-ray release is the perfect way to do that. the two depart for a Bonnie and Clyde style adventure.
Facts of the Case
Sometime in the future, humans are engineered so that at 25 they stop aging. Theoretically, they can live forever, but at 25 people are only given a year…anything beyond that they have to earn. Time becomes a currency, and in the poorest "time zones" people are literally living day to day. One such inhabitant is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network), a working-class guy who rarely has as much as a day left on his clock. When a rich guy shows up in his tough neighborhood and gives Will a century before committing suicide, the Timekeepers (lead by Cillian Murphy, Batman Begins) suspect Will of murder. When things start to go south, Will heads to the richest time zone, New Greenwich, where he meets heiress Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried, Mamma Mia!). She's as tired of the economic disparity between those with time and those without as Will is, and the two depart for a Bonnie and Clyde style adventure.
According to Time Magazine, 2011's Person of the Year was The Protester. Across the world various protests led to regime changes and other material changes. It even touched the U.S. with the Occupy protests across the country. I think the reason that In Time resonated much more overseas than it did in America is that it feels plugged into the protest zeitgeist in a way designed to make viewers uncomfortable.
In just about every way, In Time is a straight-up Robin Hood / Bonnie and Clyde story. The only exception is that the stakes have been raised. Now it's not just a poor man robbing from a rich man, but a man robbing to get the time he needs to live. The metaphor (time=money) is a logical one, and it ensures that the film's argument hits all the stronger. It's possible to view films like Bonnie and Clyde and say (as many people did to Occupy protesters) "they should just get a job." In Time exposes that fallacy by pointing out the way that systemic disparities keep even those with a job from ever really getting ahead. And even though time is a currency, it's really hard to accuse someone with hours to live of being selfish for "stealing" time.
So, the film is a pretty good diagnosis of the world financial picture and effectively dramatizes the split between the 99 and 1%—but is it a good movie? That's a little harder to judge. I like Timberlake and Seyfried as actors, and I wasn't excepting much from the movie. Consequently, I was pleasantly surprised. The film does a good job of creating a consistent world for the characters to inhabit, and the plot/character motivations are well done. The film moves along at a brisk clip with plenty of action and a few steamy scenes between the leads. Although it will never join the ranks of classic sci-fi (either of futurist or social critique varieties), as a popcorn action/sci-fi adventure film I found it compelling.
This Blu-ray also helps the film's case. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded high definition transfer is rock solid. Detail is strong throughout, even during some of the darker scenes (like when our co-stars taken a naked dip in the ocean), and black levels are consistent and deep. Colors are perfectly saturated, and no digital artifacts mar the image. There's really nothing to complain about with this transfer. The 5.1 DTS-HD track is similarly strong. The dialogue is clean and clear from the center channel, while the surrounds get a lot of use during chase sequences and action scenes. There's a good bit of low end thump, and the film's score sounds especially clear. Extras start with a 16 minute featurette on the conceit of time in the film, and a few deleted scenes that don't add too much. There's also a second disc that plays as a DVD of the film and doubles as a Digital Copy.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In Time's chief misstep is that it doesn't have an answer to solving the financial crisis, either in our world or the world of the film. Thus, when our heroes go all Bonnie and Clyde with the full knowledge they'll irrevocably destroy the time economy, they and the film seem okay with that. So, after being so smart in setting up the metaphor of time, money, and economic disparity, the film can't find a way out of its problems other than trite bank robbing montages. That feels a little hollow after the film's effective setup.
I could also quibble about the casting of Timberlake and Seyfried, who don't have nearly the chemistry they need to make this movie really sing. Timberlake is very much going for the "lone wolf" sci-fi stereotype in some ways, but his attachment to Seyfried's character should complicate things. It never really does that to a satisfying degree. On the flip side, Seyfried is called upon to completely abandon her entire way of life in the course of an evening, and she seems remarkably cool with it. Also, her hairstyle may be intended to be futuristic, but it's much closer to silly.
Finally, some more politically-oriented supplements would be a nice addition.
Approached as a popcorn sci-fi actioner, In Time delivers on a visceral level, even if its characters' confusion ultimately leaves the film a bit confused as well. Whatever the film's problems, this Blu-ray release is technically above reproach and worth a rental for fans of the actors or of sci-f action films.
It's not perfect, but In Time is not guilty.
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