Friday, October 28, 2011

In Time

Anyone who reads my stuff on a regular basis knows I worry about Hollywood’s lack of originality over the past few years. I actually think movie makers have shown some flicker of life lately.  There have been a number of interesting films released over the past few months that, while not the most original works ever, definitely show progress.  Some of the movies I’ve watched recently at least don’t look and feel like they were just churned out of the thoughtless crap factory.

In Time relies on a fairly original premise that seems more of an alternate universe rather than futuristic.  Humans have been genetically engineered to the point of not aging past the age of twenty-five.  After that birthday, humans have a clock on their arm that’s gives them one more year of life and time is counting down.  When it reaches zero, you’re dead.  People can earn and spend time and time has become the currency of the world.

People work to earn time.  They are paid in minutes, hours, and days.  Conversely, coffee, rent, and food cost time.  People tend to live day by day, even minute to minute because the system is designed take their time.  Time can also be given, stolen, loaned, and gambled.  It gives a whole new meaning to all-in poker.

Behind this system is a shadowy, and ultimately, ill defined group of people who own every thing.  They distribute time and control everything from the daily cost of living to interest rates of time on loans.  Their purpose is poorly explained but it seems to be to control population.  The world is divided up into area codes, populated by the rich – century old people loaded with time and still looking a youthful twenty-five – and the less fortunate.  The masses, those time poor souls living by the hour, do not mix with the rich and powerful.

The cost of immortality though, is high.  Those controlling the system, the people controlling the distribution of time, are so concerned with accumulating and harnessing time that they forget how to live.  They spend centuries playing it safe and becoming little more than robotic drones.  The metaphor is subtle for the most part and I prefer that to a heavy handed blow to the head this film could have delivered.

The writing in general was a little uneven.  The dialogue was especially uninspired.  The action sequences were quick and tense without a lot of flashy, unbelievable stunts.  Director/writer Andrew Nichol wasted little time jumping into the storyline and he kept the pace brisk.  The movie could have used about ten more minutes of gradual storyline development.  There were a few aspects that could have been explained more thoroughly.  The final result was sleek and exciting and made for very good entertainment.

Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried played the leads with an earnest believability.  Both are growing as actors and were able to carry the load in this film.  They were supported mainly by Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight and Inception) and Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men).  The latter is Seyfried’s Sylvia father and one of those shadowy men doling out time.  Murphy plays a timekeeper, basically a cop, who is so good, he is bad.  Both do a fine job and they blend in with some favorites such as Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer, and Johnny Galecki, who all have small, but welled acted roles.  The acting was far from perfect but again, they were working with a less than perfect script and no one butchered their roles.

In Time won’t win any statuettes but it gets big marks for originality and entertainment value.  Its sleek action was not bloated with overwhelming and unreasonable special effects.  It carries a PG-13 rating but it does not get out of hand with sex, language, or violence – each of these get one tiny scene to earn that rating.  My 12-year old son could watch it if he wanted.  The premise and action make up for the weak dialogue and the acting was good enough not to be a distraction.  I was entertained throughout and got more than I expected.  All in all, in this day and age, that’s pretty good.

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