For the life of me I couldn't figure out why this was at the time. I can see that the film had some cheesy moments in it, but on the whole it was an okay thriller that had a very interesting idea at the core, and I think that it's perhaps the concept of the film that drew me to it more than anything else.
It's the concept of earning time to stay alive and a split in society between those who have an abundance of time and those who struggle day to day to earn it that caught my imagination along with the quirks and turns to that concept that fleshed out that idea as the story evolved.
It's certainly a competent thriller on top of that with some good moments, but there are equally moments that let the film and the story down. Perhaps they focussed more on those while I was taken by the overall concept.
Everything in life costs time and is deducted from the embedded clock, and by working you receive payments in time which are added to the clock. There are those born into time, wealthy families, and these people can live for incredible amounts of time, nigh on immortal. The cities are divided into zones, each with a checkpoint that costs time to pass in and out of, the wealthier the zone is in time, then the more costly it is to pass through that zone.
One such person born into time meets up with the lead character Will Salas, played by Justin Timberlake. He is obscenely wealthy in time and arrives in the poorest of districts to party, where anyone with more than a few days to spend always draws attention. Salas saves him from a gang who are about to take his time and kill him but the man reveals that he wanted to die, that he's grown tired of living, and he gives all his remaining time, an entire century, to Salas before he "times out" and dies.
This leaves Salas in a difficult position, in a poor district he suddenly has far too much time and he's being hunted by the Timekeepers who believe he has stolen the time, and the local gangs who just want the time for themselves. So he heads to the richest district with the faintest of ideas in his mind, to put an end to inequality of the system.
The concept for In Time is really interesting, and if you're anything like me then it's grabbed you from the trailer and even before. In the film itself the idea is developed really well and I found myself thinking about the worth of time and the true cost of the things that we buy, in fact a couple of times I found myself thinking about this and moving away from the film. There are some clever touches added to the story to flesh it out and build on world created around the currency of time, but at the same time it avoids over analysing the mechanics of the concept and the world.
For instance the film never explores how the time system works in people or how time is transferred; these are things that would be taken for granted in a world where they existed, and so we just get on with the story while these things happen through the story. It does stop to see them and we understand what's happening but the film doesn't feel the need to explain the details or the mechanics. For me this is key in a story based in another reality, otherwise we get bogged down with characters explaining things to the audience, pulling them and us right out of the story.
There are even some big issues that could be explored and deliver an interesting subplot but aren't because, again, the characters wouldn't really step out of the story to take the time to tell the audience, or let someone else tell the audience, instead the story drives forward. One of the biggest story points that highlights this is based around the market trading and what is the story behind the business of the exceedingly rich Philippe Weis played by Vincent Kartheiser.
We know that he is talking to other incredibly rich people, and from the visuals we get the idea that they are in other zones and between them they are controlling and trading time. We get the sense of a trading market, one that might even be secret, and that he might be in control of.
Now however interesting this would be to explore, it would detract from what the story is trying to give us and the plot lines it is following. Instead we are given just enough to let us have an idea of what is happening and move on with the story. When Salas and Sylvia Weis, played by Amanda Seyfried, enter Philippe Weis's office to steal what's in the vault we see the trading system, understand what it means, and we even see Salas look to the screen to acknowledge his surprise and perhaps understanding before moving on with what they are there for. It's another aspect of the film I really respected and another aspect that makes it so strong.
It's funny because while In Time handles this side of the story really well, building a rich and interesting world and allowing the audience to think for themselves, some areas of the rest of the film are handled rather predictably and in a few instances, with a rather light helping of cheese.
The parallels of the two running to beat time sequences are as cheese laden as anything, as are the moments Salas and Sylvia first kiss or his announcement of what he intends to do as he travels through the districts for the first time. There are some tick box moments for sure and allow for some groaning, and these are definitely the parts that my cinema going companions were struggling with.
Other story threads have a lot of promise and deliver more, one is that of the timekeeper as played by Cillian Murphy, which while it might seem that it's going to be a stock role, it does start to suggest that it could off in a different direction. Come the end of the film there was a strong potential for it to surprise us and I genuinely thought we were about to explore something different. We were, but it definitely was not the one I expected and I did end up feeling that an interesting angle was missed.
Also I wanted a little more of the story with Fortis, played by Alex Pettyfer, and his gang, but their ending played out as the warning signs had told us earlier on and rather quickly and conveniently. While some of the film was there to make us think, other parts weren't. The idea of the fight ended up being a little flat and was the one part of the science fiction side of the story that didn't hold up as well as the rest.
There's a heavy thread of Bonnie and Clyde throughout the film, and mainly due to the stylish two leads being arrogantly confident through their moments of robbery, to me there are a few moments where I thought it overpowered the film somewhat and I felt we were losing sight of the story we should have been concentrating on, but it did soon come back.
I enjoyed the way the end of the time story played out, but the story of our main characters seemed to go in a pretty predictable direction come the final sequences. I couldn't help but feel that maybe we should have explored some of the missed moments with characters and a gone a little deeper into a few of the merely brushed over technology aspects of the story.
The film looks good throughout with the future world not relying on fantastically imagined new buildings, vehicle and technology and it's far less liable to technology dating as other futuristic films are. This looks and feels much more grounded in our reality, however at the same time there are some poor moments such as the sports car crash which doesn't hold up well to the rest of the film and was a major complaint of my fellow cinema-goers.
In Time is edited well and keeps the pace driving forward, and Justin Timberlake provides a good performance, as do Alex Pettyfer, Cillian Murphy and Amanda Seyfried. No one else is on screen enough to really give us a lot from their character and I really didn't feel as though there was a lot to connect with in them other than with Pettyfer's and Murphy's roles. I find myself wondering why that was, and perhaps there's a little of the fact that there's not a lot new to the lead characters, or that I feel that there's nothing within me that I share with them, after all we would like to aspire to their ideals but really we'd take the time and the wealth. However there was more interest in the more humanly traits of the two characters of the Timekeeper and the gang leader.
In Time is a competent thriller with a very interesting science fiction concept which together created an enjoyable film. However some, probably those who aren't as intrigued as the concept of the science fiction side of the story, will find that this is not enough and some areas where the film is lacking will become the stand out features for them. This is despite the fact that the concept, if it grabs you, will have you thinking about the idea of time, of wasting it, and just what value is placed on even the smallest of items when you think of it in terms of a portion taken from your life.
The rest of the story could be thought of as following films we've seen before and to some degree of recognition, and while it doesn't damage the film it doesn't really do anything more for it either.
The characters are sometimes predictable and could have done with a bit more depth and exploration, especially for the Timekeeper for whom I thought we were being drawn towards and an interesting storyline. Performances are good, although the written characters could have done with more to give to the actors and in a few moments the script and dialogue feels a little cheesy.
All in all a competent thriller with an interesting science fiction core, but it could have been much more than we were delivered, and I had expected a lot more from Andrew Niccol.