Published Oct 27, 2011I set out for a nice diversionary sci-fi flick and somehow wound up at the liberal Hollywood branch of the Occupy movement. While there's all the sexy imagery and high production value you'd expect from Justin Timberlake's first big action vehicle, more than anything, this rides on one relevant metaphor: the rich have time, the poor do not.
Time is currency ― people in the ghetto walk around with not even a day to spare. If you give your kid 30 minutes to buy lunch, you better hope the bus isn't late or you might not make it through the day. Meanwhile, the upper crust has eons to blow on the type of soulless carousing associated with Bernie Madoff. T-Lake asks his rich love interest, "How do you live watching people die right next to you?" She responds, "You don't watch." The villains are social Darwinists who cling to the belief that their time-based economy is for the greater good, just as today's real-world elites cling to free market economics and the now-dubious gospel of Adam Smith's invisible hand.
Audiences will pursue In Time as they pursue all populist entertainment: blindly and without much thought. But its anti-greed message will hopefully take root amongst its seven-dollar popcorn consuming, cellphone-dependent teen audience. There's a long and lofty lineage of leftist dystopias like Fahrenheit 451 or The Handmaid's Tale, but those works preach to the converted: the literate and the socially aware. In Time sneaks up on those who can benefit from its message most during these turbulent times.
The plot unfolds at a rapid pace once the conceptual framework is laid out. T-Lake, effective as a lovable idealist, becomes a marked man once he inherits an unthinkable century of time. He pays a month to enter New Greenwich and a staggering year to enter a private casino, so he can access the true power brokers. He kidnaps the daughter of the temporally rich Vincent Kartheiser (Mad Men) and in true Patty Hearst fashion, she soon identifies with him and becomes a criminal herself.
From this point on there's the ideal blend of action and ideas. It's that rare "high-octane thrill ride" that doesn't bore the pants off the viewer in its last half-hour of inevitable chases and explosions.
Compared to similar films from this year (The Adjustment Bureau, Source Code), In Time is most likely the one people will watch ten years from now, much like director Andrew Niccol's breakthrough film, Gattaca. (Fox)