As I write this, I am somewhere near the Arctic Circle, or maybe I should say near it and above it. My flight left Hong Kong around 9:30 AM on the 9th of November, and by the time it touches down in JFK Airport in New York a bit more than 14 hours later – my watch will display 11:45 AM on November 9th.
Though I will spend more than 14 hours flying over the top of the northern Hemisphere, and have 14 plus hours added to my age, only 2 hours or so will pass on the clock. The time both literally and figuratively flew by. So, yup – time flies.
Speaking of time, yesterday morning I caught the 11:00 AM show at the UA Cinemas, 5/F Cityplaza, Tai Koo, Hong Kong. That’s the 5th floor of a large shopping mall right next door to my hotel. I had time to burn before my lunch appointment at 1:30 PM. You know, in Hong Kong, or at least in this theater – when you buy your ticket at the box office, you make a seat selection by pressing the icon for the seat you want on a electronic touch screen display of the available seats in the theater.
Then, when you get to the House or the specific theater (it’s a multiplex), you are shown to your seat by a cute young woman who wields a flash light. And what a seat it was - a large leather and extremely comfortable movie seat and almost on a par with a seat that you might find only in the first class section of a trans-oceanic airplane.
I was there to watch In Time – the futuristic thriller that stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki who moonlighted from The Big Bang Theory, and Vincent Kartheiser. Directed and written by Andrew Nicol who also has directing credits most notably for Lord of War and Gattaca, and writing credits for The Truman Show, among others – the film has a simple premise; people stop aging at 25, and once you reach that age, you will live only for one more year, unless you can add more time to your life/account. In short – time is the new currency. Meaning everything you earn is paid to you in time, and everything you spend is deducted from your balance of time. A bus ride costs an hour, and when the price rises to two hours, someone will lose their life because they haven’t enough time to spend on this trip.
The price of coffee might be 4 minutes, the price of a lunch could be 30 minutes and so forth. There’s a high stakes poker game in which a big pot amounted to a 1000 years. There’s a bank heist – the thieves walk away not with gold bullion bars, but with these metallic bars that one uses to upload time through your wrist into your life force which runs through your system the same as blood. While most folks are in a constant state of having to beg, borrow, steal, or earn time to continue their day to day lives, others are super-rich having acquired so much time (millions of years) that they are immortal, or nearly immortal.
That’s the premise. Beyond that, it’s simply a race against time. Will Salas (Timberlake) tells us that he’s been living day to day (he means that literally) for a while because his true age is now 28. He meets a man named Henry Hamilton played by Will Bomer who is 105 but looks 25 (everyone is either 25 or younger in appearance) but has had enough. He’s tired of the rat race. He wants to check out by handing over his one hundred years to Will via a wrist to wrist transfer. He does this while Will sleeps; leaving himself about five minutes to go off and then die.
Will is accused of being Hamilton’s killer although we know this is not the case – the timekeepers (i.e. – cops) think otherwise. Cillian Murphy plays a time keeper/cop with a certain elan to him. He wears a stylish leather overcoat and he looks both fierce and determined and yet he seems strangely haunted because he knows that the system is desperate and dangerous for all but a few of the most corrupt and therefore the richest who control the allocation of the time. Though he himself is a day to day employee of the system, his job is to make sure that time remains where it should. Meaning that the poor will continue to die off as they haven’t the means to stay alive – but had everyone the means, the earth would ultimately perish because if no one died eventually there wouldn’t be enough space and we’d run out of resources. So that is how the film offers a little philosophical chewing gum to its viewers.
But as a film, there’s not enough substance to keep you intrigued for two full hours. Watching people fret and worry about how the price of everything keeps going up and how their lives become a race against time, with more difficulty with each passing day is a fine starting point. People who are out of time actually drop dead and fall to the ground as death is instantaneous.
The timekeepers drive souped-up cars (resembling Dodge Chargers), people live in time zones or neighborhoods that have toll gates and high fences. The poor won’t want to spend some of their all too precious life force (time) to cross into a wealthier enclave. This creates a series of ghettos – for the poor, for the middle classes, and for the time super-wealthy, the neo-immortals. The richest enclave is called New Greenwich. The film was shot in L.A., so maybe calling the new communities by their real names like Rolling Hills, and Hidden Hills – each with median household incomes in excess of 200,000 – would have been too obvious.
When Will Salas shows up in New Greenwich for a high stakes poker game you know that tensions will mount. Kartheiser plays Phillippe Weis, who is the world’s richest man which means that he can live forever (immortal). Weis’s mother, wife, and daughter all look 25. The daughter, played by Amanda Seyfried, will become both Salas’s hostage then love interest.
The two of them are forced to go on the run after they rob a time bank, and in that sense they become a near future version of Bonnie and Clyde. By this time, the film is not much more than a chase and pursuit film.
The film will not overwhelm you with technical prowess or CGI effects. The hoodlums seem like updated gangs, the cops wear black leather, and the rich, well they look the part, and they live in fabulous mansions. That’s it – the film’s veneer is philosophical or as Ebert calls it – an allegory in which time is money, and people will pursue time in any way they can including violent crime when necessary. Truly, in this film, only the strong or most cunning and daring survive. But the bottom line – is that while this is a film in which no actor looks more than 25, none are particularly charismatic.
Timberlake looks the part, but as written, you can’t really get up enough feel for him to actually root for him. The rest of the actors and actresses are all young and up and coming, so it is quite likely you might be unfamiliar with at least some of the major players in this film. While the rich look elegant, and the desperate look suitably poor, you can’t identify with any group. Nor side for or against them emotionally. In that sense, the film is creatively bankrupt – just a few new ideas wrapped around some clichéd tired, and typical chase scenes as well as stock characters. This film is just like a flashily thick bankroll with a C-Note on top, but everything beneath is simply George Washington singletons.