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Overall Rating
2.31

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average: 34.62%
Pretty Crappy61.54%
Sucks: 3.85%

3 reviews, 8 user ratings


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In Time
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Needs More Morris Day"
2 stars

"In Time" offers audiences the chance to see two radically different movies duking it out before their eyes in order to decide which one will dominate the proceedings. In one corner, we have a small-scale and quirky science-fiction story that is more reliant on ideas than special effects to provoke and intrigue its viewers. In the other corner, we have a large-scale futuristic action thriller that wants to dazzle its viewers with gunplay, car chases, fistfight, sexy dames and other such familiar staples. Although it is possible to blend these two divergent approaches into a single film that is both visually and intellectually exciting, as Christopher Nolan conclusively demonstrated last year with the brilliant "Inception," the end result this time around is a fairly ugly brawl that will have most viewers throwing in the towel long before it officially ends.

The conceit of the film is that in the not-too-distant future, science has figured out a way to halt the aging process so that no one physically grows beyond 25. Of course, if everyone can live forever, this would lead to a massive overpopulation crisis and so those same scientists have made it so that people can only live for one more year unless they can acquire more time. In this world, time is the new currency, one's current lifespan appears as a constantly changing digital readout on their forearms and cities are divided into "time zones" in which the rich can theoretically live forever in comfort while the poor are literally struggling to survive from day to day even as the cost of living continues to rise. (Not only are those puns intended, they are actually utilized in the dialogue.) One lower-class citizen is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), who lives with his mother (Olivia Wilde. . .yes, Olivia Wilde) and tries to eke out an honest living in a world where people get mugged for their time and a simple coffee break can cost a person a few precious minutes. One night, Will goes to a local bar and saves Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a mysterious stranger sporting more than a century on his arm, from the hands of local thug Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) and hides him for the night. It turns out that Henry has lived for more than a century already and is frankly sick of the whole thing. Naturally, the time-poor Will can't believe what he is hearing and avers that if he had that much time, he certainly wouldn't waste it in the way that Henry had planned to do and when he wakes up the next morning, he finds that Henry has transferred all of his time over to him just before plummeting off a bridge to his death.

Now Will has all the time in the world but after a tragedy that he is unable to avert by barely a second, he decides to make his way over to the elite zone where time is no object in order to stir things up, which he does by beating wealthy tycoon Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) out of many years playing cards at a casino and by skinny-dipping with his poor-little-rich-girl daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) at a lavish party the next night. Alas, when Henry's body turns up with so much time missing without explanation, the police, known as Timekeepers, naturally, suspect foul play and longtime Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) zeroes in on Will and arrests him for murder. Will escapes and takes Sylvia as a hostage along the way and after a series of misadventures, they wind up in his old zone with only a couple of hours to spare between them. While Sylvia has her eyes opened to the reality of how the other half lives, Will tries to ransom her back to her father for enough time to provide the locals with a better life. Since such altruistic behavior naturally smacks of the kind of snot-nosed socialism that would dangerously threaten the economy, dear old dad refuses to pay up and more or less condemns his daughter to death as a result. Needless to say, this approach doesn't sit too well with either Will or Sylvia and as a result, they begin a string of daring robberies in which they steal time from the rich and distribute it to the poor, always staying one step ahead of Leon, leading up to an attempt to pinch nothing less than a million years from one of the few people who happens to have that amount of time lying around.

"In Time" was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who made one of the more striking directorial debuts of the 1990's with the sci-fi mindbender "Gattaca" and further solidified his standing by penning the screenplay for "The Truman Show." Those films melded together trippy narratives that favored intriguing intellectual conceits over lavish effects with an uncanny knack for commenting on real-life concerns that were just then at the forefront ("Gattaca," which dealt with the dark side of genetic engineering, came out around the time that the ethics of cloning was being debated in the media while "The Truman Show," which featured a man who gradually discovered that his entire life was a television show, debuted just before the concept of reality television broke through into the mainstream via "Survivor") and told stories in a genuinely unique voice that stood out against the usual multiplex fodder. His subsequent films, "Simone" and "Lord of War," would prove to be slightly less ambitious in scope but were nevertheless reasonably bold and exciting works that made his name one worth seeking out. With "In Time," he returns to the visionary science-fiction approach of his initial efforts, albeit on a presumably larger scale, and in its early scenes, it is fairly interesting. The notion of time as currency may sound absurd at first but Niccol lays it out it in a manner that establishes the premise in a strong and sure manner without stumbling over the potentially screwy details and which shares some uncanny parallels with what can been seen on the nightly news in regards to the economic crisis and the current nationwide protests against those whose actions largely inspired the crisis in the first place. He also sets up his futuristic world in a refreshingly low-tech manner that eschews wildly appointed landscapes for a look that, save for a few details here and there, is not too far off from what could be seen right now in any normal American city, giving off an effect that feels inspired less by the likes of "Blade Runner" than by the low-fi atmospherics of "Alphaville," Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 classic in which he depicted a totalitarian city of the future simply by filming on location in Paris with virtually no changes.

As someone who has admired all of Niccol's previous efforts--yes, even the wildly underrated satire "Simone"--it seemed from the early scenes that he might have another provocative winner in "In Time" but once it finishes setting up its premise, the film then squanders it on an increasingly tedious storyline that doesn't come close to doing itself any justice. Once Will and Sylvia go on the run, for example, the inspiration seems to go as well as the film just becomes one extended chase scene in which our heroes are cornered by either Leon and his fellow timekeepers or the local time thugs and escape by the skin of their extremely bright and shiny teeth. This might have worked if Niccol had any real gifts as an action filmmaker but he is at his best when dealing with two or three people sitting in a room discussing increasingly complex notions and pretty much all thumbs when it comes to having them punching and shooting their ways in and out of those rooms. The screenplay is also surprisingly lazy in the way that it handles the whole time-as-money gimmick after a while--instead of developing it further, he mystifyingly turns it into the basis for a series of jokey remarks that are nowhere near as clever as he seems to think they are.

He also fails to get much of anything from his actors either. Although Timberlake has more than established his chops as a legitimate actor in films as varied as "Southland Tales," "The Social Network" and "Friends with Benefits" (not to mention his increasingly invaluable gigs hosting "Saturday Night Live"), he just isn't very convincing as an action hero here. On the other hand, co-star Seyfried isn't particularly convincing here as a human being--she has clearly been made up to look like Anna Karina in "Alphaville" but while that character was a robot gradually learning to become human, Seyfried plays a human who behaves so robotically that many viewers may find themselves unconsciously anticipating a shocking twist reveal that isn't in the offings. As for the bad guys, Murphy and Kartheiser are both strangely forgettable while would-be screen idol Alex Pettyfer is so laughably unconvincing as the crook terrorizing the lower classes that he practically short-circuits every scene he appears in--it is impossible to fear any character who looks, sounds and acts like no one so much as he does Rick Astley unless, of course, there is the threat that he might break into song.

"In Time" is the kind of film that squanders a potentially fascinating premise so completely that all that you can find yourself thinking about as you walk out afterwards is at what point in its production did it suddenly go wrong--did Niccol originally make a film more in line with his earlier works and then find himself obligated to rework it into more of an action picture at the behest of the bigwigs at Fox or did he set off to try to write something that would presumably be a more commercially viable product and realized too late that he had no real aptitude for such things. Considering the amount of material that appears to be the result of reshoots on display--including one moment (you'll recognize it when you see it) that is so awkwardly and ineptly inserted into the action that it makes that one cheesy car stunt that used to pop up in every single film produced by Troma Pictures look smoothly executed and deployed by comparison--my guess would lean towards the former but whatever the case may be, the end result is enormous disappointment. Ironic, isn't it, that a film that builds its entire premise on the notion of time being the most precious commodity available would itself be guilt of wasting it so extravagantly in the process.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21720&reviewer=389
originally posted: 10/28/11 00:00:00
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell boring spend time watching something else 1 stars
5/24/12 mr.mike While it moves along , it looks cheap and has bad acting. 3 stars
3/29/12 DK Great concept, solid first half, second portion compromised by lazy screenwriting. 3 stars
3/12/12 Where will my next favorite actress come from? Continues downward spiral from RedRidingHood. Now I hear she'll play Linda Lovelace. YUCK!! 2 stars
2/26/12 ACTION MOVIE FAN WEAK STORY LACKS REAL CHARACTERS DULL OVERALL 2 stars
12/08/11 The Velcro Warlock Tedious dreary premise with nowhere to go. Still, fabulous Amanda Seyfried lightened it up. 2 stars
11/06/11 KingNeutron The female leads were striking, but too many plot holes and bad graphic effects 3 stars
10/27/11 PAUL SHORTT AN INTRIGUING CONCEPT, RATHER THAN A COMPELLING STORY 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Oct-2011 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  28-Oct-2011
  DVD: 31-Jan-2012




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