Andrew Niccol’s nearly fifteen years as a writer and director have produced results as uneven as his latest, In Time. As with Gattaca (which he also wrote and directed), In Time, explores a master and slave race, framed with the idea that each person is born with a glowing, green clock on their arm. When a person turns twenty five, that clock begins to count down from three hundred and sixty five years. Without buying new time, the clock will run out, and when it does, you die. On the plus side, the aging process stops when clock starts. So everybody is twenty five!
The rich, of course, have endless amounts of time, and are very nearly immortal. The poor only seem to be able to scrape together a few hours here and there. They’re frequently close to time running out. In this world, time is literally money. Coffee, a tickets for the bus, rent, it’s all paid in hours, minutes and years. With inflation increasing faster than wages, it seems inevitable that all the poor will die young, but pretty. Justin Timberlake plays the role of a man named Will. Will is not one of the rich, and lives in a ghetto named Dayton (territories are strictly separated by wealth). He lives with his mother (Olivia Wilde), with whom he celebrates her fiftieth birthday. He dreams of taking her to a rumored district named New Greenwich, where no one ever rushes, ever has a hurried pace, since they literally have all the time in the world.
Will gets his chance when a sullen man named Henry (Matt Bomer) transfers over a century to him. Henry is one hundred and five years old, and prefers this as a way out. The opportunity comes too late, as Will’s mother’s clock runs out. Alone, he travels to New Greenwich, becomes acquainted with one of the richest men in the world, and ends up kidnapping his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) as a hostage to avoid questioning from police concerning his sudden wealth of time.
At this point, Sylvia and Will become a couple on the run, stealing from the rich (which happens mostly to be from Sylvia’s father, played by Vincent Kartheiser), and giving to the poor–trying to stay one step ahead of the authorities, led by Cillian Murphy. Dialogue becomes stagnant. Endless conversations about time, wasting time, running out of time, stealing time, become as uninteresting as the not-so-subtle commentary on wealth distribution. What’s most unclear, however, is what Niccol’s was aiming for. As much as Gattaca’s pace had an firm understanding of its own pacing and purpose, In Time seems as lost. Energy levels go in between extremes, and the lulls are little too long. Stylistically, this future, be it distant or near, is contradictory in fashions and technology. There’s a lot of dark sunglasses, black leather, muscle cars without any door handles. Less may have been more in this sense. There are a few shining moments, mostly provided by the cinematography of Roger Deakins, and performances, particularly by Mr. Kartheiser. I’m sure there’s a clever anecdote about wasting my time here. Just imagine I took the time to think of it.