Romy Shiller

In Time: Or, “What?”

In Film, review on November 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Mark Twain

Director: Andrew Niccol

Writer: Andrew Niccol

Stars: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

This film should be a rental. I think. Sorry but I’m conflicted. I couldn’t wait until it was over – yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. Maybe, I have an unconscious thing for Justin Timberlake. Who knows? A sci-fi thriller by the director of Gattaca, the author of The Truman Show …

Plot: In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.

In an anti-capitalist analogy, time replaces money, and only the very rich can become immortal. Justin Timberlake as Will Salas becomes a kind of Robin Hood – giving time from the rich to the poor.

There are intriguing ideas here. In the future (2161) people are genetically-engineered to stop aging at 25. They have one further year to live and if they don’t get more time, by working or stealing, they are programmed to die. Time is currency – a metaphor for money. People – rich people – can be immortal and look 25. In a culture obsessed with youth: gyms, diets, miracle products on the Home Shopping channel, there are ideas here that go way beyond the division of wealth or class systems. This film taps into and depends on our fear of aging.

Martin Roberts from Fan the Fire Magazine says, “There are some nice ideas thrown around, and the film works as an analogy (albeit it a heavy-handed one) for modern society’s staggeringly unjust division of wealth, but it aims to please the broadest audience possible and suffers for it.”

I googled “young-looking products” and got so many results that it’s mind-boggling. For example, a facelift site: “When we age, we lose youthful volume within our face and plastic surgery has traditionally taken the concept of reductive type procedures where things are taken away instead of added.”

Man, this film using a basic cultural phobia is problematic but probably smart and effective. The pay-off for the film is monetary success and mirroring the story, the film has a currency. The stars are young and bankable. The opening weekend the film made $12,050,368 (USA) (30 October 2011 – 3122 Screens).

A plagiarism suit has been filed but the story resonates with many films, such as Logan’s Run (1976). The suit filed is regarding the short-story “Repent Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by fiction writer Harlan Ellison.

The hot young bods of Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried fan the flames of unrealistic desire. Evil or good, people are young – that is the constant. Because this is a movie, they are usually good looking too. So, ageless beauty – realistic if you are a vampire.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a 28-year-old factory worker, is accused of murdering 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) and stealing his time but he’s a good guy – wrong place, wrong time deal. Hamilton’s body is found by the Timekeepers, who arrange for Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) to capture Will.  Salas runs, goes to rich-town or New Greenwich and is drawn to rich-girl and his hostage Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried). Olivia Wilde plays Will Salas’ 50 year old mother. I’ll say that again; Olivia Wilde plays Will Salas’ mother. Ageless beauty personified. Good genes? A new definition of MILF? (The rumoured romance between Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde added an extra layer of stuff for me – very Oedipal, but anyways…) The story was cute and predictable but the elements around it made a bit of a twist. All of this, my analysis of the film, is in retrospect. During the film I was very ho-hum.

Justin Timberlake can act and I think that it is a very good thing he’s making a move into film. Aside from some interesting ideas there isn’t much of a story here. So one can act their butt off and still fall flat. He is accused of murder and on the run he takes a very rich girl as hostage. Of course they fall in love and want to save the world. Amanda Seyfried looks better as a blond – there, I said it. I don’t like her acting here. Olivia Wilde is fine but yawn – not her fault. Olivia Wilde is a very, nice, hot mom. Her role is miniscule and is a contrived set-up for her son’s behavior.

The aesthetic is retro and groovy to watch and because this is futuristic sci-fi, the move away from flying cars and shiny, metal suits is thoughtful and peasant: “Most of these influences are from the early 1960s to late 1970s, with a bit of 1980s thrown in. For instance, many vehicles used for the film are actually 1960s and 1970s models, but heavily modified to make them look futuristic. Furthermore, a lot of buildings, both interior and exteriors, display retro influences as well.”

Shaun Munro from What Culture! said, “In Time is half a good film – thoughtful, well-shot, and smart in places – and half a clunky, derivative, and at its worst, laughable one.” There is probably more to this film than meets the eye. Concluding this is a big surprise to me.

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