Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: In Time

If you like to watch beautiful people run, this movie is for you.
Sometimes, a film's only job can be to convey a compelling set of ideas. Sometimes, that is all a film needs to do. In Time, the latest piece of sci-fi from writer/director Andrew Niccol of Gattaca renown, needed a little bit more than the fascinating thought experiment it shows us. The experiment presented here is a near-future world not unlike our own in many ways, wherein all humans are genetically engineered to cease aging at 25, and are then given a year of time, which has replaced our idea of money. One pays rent in days and weeks, and works to earn more time; the poor must work tirelessly and waste not a second, for when a person's clock (emblazoned stylishly along the forearm) runs down to zero, they die. The wealthy are essentially immortal, and the less fortunate live in a poverty that threatens to kill them at any minute. The brilliant simplicity of this scenario is the best kind of science fiction. A universal, complex, and controversial facet of life such as money is morphed only a little, and the entire thing in turned inside out and thrown to the extremes. 
On a conceptual level, the script is great, but on the practical level, it is gruelingly dull and blandly stupid. The dialogue is frustratingly trite, and the plot is so thinly laid out that it might tear at any moment. Not helping things are the clumsy direction, and mostly over-done or under-done acting. Justin Timberlake, who is a natural at comedy but not so much with the drama, never finds the depth or complexity necessary for his portrayal of Will Salas, our protagonist from the ghetto who suddenly comes into a century of time and goes on the run from the Timekeepers, a temporal economy's lawmen. Timberlake glides handsomely across the surface of the film, never making a big impression or drawing us into the world he is supposed to inhabit. Even in the most extreme situations, he doesn't seem to be concerned, and so we are not concerned for him and our attention drifts to the consistently pretty photography, or to the mysteriously sloppy editing. Cillian Murphy reliably delivers a suitably world-weary and no-nonsense portrayal as Raymond Leon, a Timekeeper who gives chase when Salas takes possession of what might be ill-gotten time. Murphy knows exactly what kind of movie he's in, and we end up wishing he was the protagonist instead of Timberlake, who never seems to know what is needed of him. 
The main take away and best aspect of In Time is the concept it is built to display, and it does an okay job if it. It's just a shame that the package could not have been a little more graceful and robust, instead of a blunt, dumb instrument of conveyance.