In Time

IN TIME. Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried and Cillian Murphy. Written and directed by: Andrew Niccol. Rated M (Violence and infrequent coarse language). 109 minutes.

Written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattica, 1997), In Time is a superior, thought-provoking sci-fi thriller which uses the hackneyed adage ‘time is money’ to conjure a bleak, dystopian future-world that in many ways bears disturbing comparison with our own.

In a memorable, convincing performance, pop icon Justin Timberlake (Bad Teacher, The Social Network) plays Will Salas, a young man born into poverty in a rigidly controlled world, where genetic engineering prevents ageing, but simultaneously stops anyone living longer than 25 years, unless they literally ‘buy time’ or steal it from others.

In this dog-eat-dog, hierarchical world where the only currency is time and the rich live forever, everyone has a digital time counter embedded in their forearm which begins ticking at birth. Will lives in the Ghetto with his mother, Rachel (Olivia Wilde), who will shortly turn 50, and intent on buying her more time any way that he can, Will forays into the Ghetto’s desolate, depleted streets.

In a bar Will meets Henry Hamilton (Max Bomer), a rich man from the affluent Zone 1, who seems oblivious to the dangers of slumming it. In helping Henry escape the predations of Fortis (Alex Pettyfer), a smooth-talking violent gangster, Will runs afoul of the Stasi-like chief Timekeeper, Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, Inception, The Wind That Shakes the Barley), who pursues him relentlessly into Zone 1.

Suddenly flush with time, Will meets a rich oligarch (Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men) and his beautiful daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) in a casino in Zone 1, and with fresh insight into how the world works, Will sets out to beat the system and elude the Timekeepers, with the adventurous Sylvia in tow.

In Time is clever and timely, a sci-fi fable which explores the present by projecting it into the future. In a world where people and even nations are treated as commodities and denoted as ‘brands’, and the rich have access to longevity via health care and the ability to pay, the use of time as an ultimate goal and ‘currency’ seems less a fantasy than what is happening in reality in many places. 

Just as important as In Time’s play on catch phrases to reveal the potent reality that lies beneath (‘Don’t waste my time’, Henry Hamilton warns Will, while another key scene has Will’s mother Rachel literally ‘running out of time’), is the film’s portrayal of human indomitability, and the sense delivered without sentimentality or undue obviousness, that living the time that one is allotted, fully and with courageousness, has intrinsic value, and is close to the meaning of existence itself.

Jan Epstein is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

20th Century Fox.

Out 27th October 2011.

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