In Time stars Justin Timberlake as Will Salas, a blue collar everyman who struggles to earn enough time for himself and his mother. In a chance encounter that becomes a blessing and a curse, Will is given one hundred years as a gift from a suicidal man. Will plans to take his mother (Olivia Wilde, in what amounts to an extended cameo) to a better time zone, but her clock runs out when she can’t afford the bus fare to meet him. Determined to avenge his mother by overthrowing the hierarchy, Will begins lavishly throwing his time around in a higher class zone. The authorities naturally assume he has stolen his surplus years. Teaming up with rebellious young Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a time-hoarding businessman, Will sets out to be a futuristic Robin Hood. Despite being hotly pursued by a Timekeeper (basically a cop who specializes in time theft) named Raymond (Cilian Murphy), Will and Sylvia attempt to overthrow the social structure by stealing time from the rich to deliver to the poor.
In Time is at its most entertaining early on as it explores what this alternate version of modern society is like. A luxury car costs a person decades of their life. High stakes casino games are literally a matter of life or death. Timberlake does a good job of conveying the freedom that excess time buys a person who was previously accustomed to living day to day. The cast generally underplays their roles, as if everyone in the future is under the influence of a moderately strong sedative. But Timberlake manages to interject some sly fun into the dour atmosphere. Seyfried looks as terrifically hot as ever, but despite her considerable acting capabilities can’t manage to get a handle on her underdeveloped character.
In the end, In Time isn’t as much fun as it could have been if Niccol’s had lightened up a little. The movie goes to rather elaborate lengths to restate a very hackneyed message: the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. But unlike real life, In Time’s upper class consists entirely of heartless bastards, utterly lacking in compassion for those about to “time out.” And also quite unlike real life, the lower classes are mostly teeming with good-hearted, kind people who simply want what they see as their fair share. If wealth redistribution is your thing, you may find yourself rooting for Will and Sylvia. In Time bites off more than it can chew, which is too bad because it does have some interesting ideas at its core.