In Time is one of those movies where the premise is a lot cooler and more interesting than the execution. The idea of a world where time is the currency, where people only live to 25 years old and thereafter work for and spend time (with the government controlling the supply of time to the population) is fascinating. A real hook if ever there was one.
However, that idea only carries the film so far and by about half way through you can feel that it’s running of steam. It doesn’t really know where to take the idea past a certain point and feels underwritten and almost unfinished in a way.
Pop star turned actor Justin Timberlake – who has been attempting to make his name as a serious actor with the likes of The Social Network, Black Snake Moan, and Friends With Benefits - is the typical good looking leading man that allows him to carry the lead role here, even if he isn’t the greatest actor in the world. Amanda Seyfried is the other lead and unfortunately the movie often falls flat because of a lack of chemistry. Their gradual connection throughout the movie doesn’t feel all that convincing, a real problem when so much hangs on that relationship.
Supporting performances are patchy. Cillian Murphy is solid as one of the “Timekeepers” who is constantly chasing Timberlake and Seyfried and Vincent Kartheiser (who some will know as Pete Campbell from Mad Men) is effective as Seyfried’s rich snake-like father. But for every good performance there are cringe-worthy others, particularly Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker, Beastly, I Am Number Four) as an annoying, unnecessarily prominent thug who steals time from people.
The film is produced, written and directed by Andrew Niccol who gave us stuff like Gattaca (perhaps the most underrated sci-fi movie of the last 15 years), S1m0ne, and Lord of War (weirdly he also wrote The Truman Show). And while it’s nice to see him get back to his sci-fi roots, this is decidedly less interesting of a film than he’s done before with a lot less to say beyond pure surface level, obvious and to be frank quite heavy-handed societal statements.
That isn’t to say In Time is a complete waste of time either, and a lot more fun than perhaps I’ve given it credit for above. Like I said it has a fantastic premise and it does allow you wonder what it would be like to live in a society where you literally live on a timer, albeit presented in a very slick, Hollywood way. There are a number of very well shot and choreographed action scenes (one car chase on a bridge particularly stands out) and a lot of running around to keep the pace swift.
Not that you should be going into In Time expecting a heady sci-fi social allegory but it’s disappointing both to see such a cool premise (which should have Logan’s Run alarm bells ringing) not fully taken advantage of and a great director not reaching anywhere close to his past sci-fi glory. A film more interested in slickness and foot chases than ideas, In Time is perfectly serviceable and enjoyable modern sci-fi entertainment but overall nothing great.