Imagine a world in which currency doesn’t exist. Instead of reaching for your wallet or purse to pay for something, you simply extend your arm to reveal a ticking timer embedded beneath your skin, and a device deducts an amount of time from your lifespan in exchange whatever you purchase. In this world, one-night stay in a nice hotel might cost you anywhere from two weeks to two months, and a dinner for two at an upscale restaurant my run you anywhere from 10 hours to a day.
This is the fascinating and unique premise of “In Time,” a tension-packed new thriller starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. The film is set at an undisclosed time in the future, and in the beginning, Will Salas (Timberlake) explains the situation in a voiceover.
“I don’t have time. I don’t have time to worry about what happened. It is what it is. We’re genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. Trouble is we only live one more year unless we can get more time. Time is now the currency. We earn it and spend it. The rich can live forever. I just want to wake up with more time on my hands and hours in the day.”
After people reach the age of 25, they can collect more time, but if they don’t, they drop dead (or time out) on their 26th birthday. Talk about pressure! Now Will must like to live dangerously because most of the time his body clock shows no more than 24 hours on it, and he works in a factory where he earns an extra 24 hours each day. This seems to be a risky way of living, but Will has managed to make it all the way to the age of 28.
Various time zones comprise Will’s world, and he lives with his mother, Rachel (Olivia Wilde), in Dayton, the zone where poverty reigns supreme. Although Rachel is celebrating her 50th birthday, she looks the same age as Will because people in this world always look just one year older than 25.
Dayton is a dangerous place because it is overrun with thieves known as Minute Men, who are always looking to prolong their own lives by stealing time from those too weak to resist them. Time can be stolen by merely putting the arms containing the clocks in contact with each other.
One evening Will is at a bar where he runs into a fellow named Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), who is a walking target for the Minute Men because his body clock shows that he has 100 years to live. Most people with as much time as Henry has would take great pains to conceal it, but much to Will’s surprise, Henry seems unconcerned about whether or not others find out how “wealthy” he is.
It doesn’t take long for the word to spread about Henry, and when the Minute Men come into the bar after him, Will helps him escape, and the two of them end up in a safe spot for the night. At this point Will’s body clock reveals that he has just 17 hours to live, whereas Henry, who already is 105, still has more than 100 years, but the prospect of living this long doesn’t really make him happy, and he explains his malaise to Will.
“Everyone can’t live forever. Where would we put them? The cost of living keeps rising to make sure that people keep dying. For a few to be immortal, many must die. The day comes when you’ve had enough. Your mind can be spent even if your body is not. We want to die. We need to.”
Before they part company, Henry gives some his time to Will, who suddenly finds himself wanted by the authorities known as Timekeepers. Since Will is on the run anyway, he decides to see what life is like on the other side of the tracks and heads to New Greenwich, where only the very wealthy reside. Here he meets Sylvia Weis (Seyfried), daughter of a corrupt and wealthy businessman, and the two of them ultimately team up to spread time around more equitably than it has been.
Part science fiction, part thriller, part mystery, part adventure, and part romance, “In Time” adds up to a 109 minutes of fast-paced entertainment with plenty of edge-of-your seat moments to hold your interest. The entire premise of the movie is an intriguing one, and it opens up all kinds of interesting possibilites. For example, think how easy it would be to lose weight. I’d much rather live four hours longer than spend them on a piece of prime rib. And there’s no way in hell that I would relinquish two months of my life to pay for one night in a fancy hotel.
Throughout the film it is obvious that Timberlake relishes playing the role of Will, and in the production notes he explained what drew him to the movie.
“When I was a kid, some of my favorite movies were action pieces like ‘First Blood,’ ‘The Fugitive,’ and ‘Die Hard.’ The one thing I loved about those specific movies was that the protagonists were everyday people placed into extraordinary circumstances and doing extraordinary things. Will’s heroics are triggered by an easily relatable factor. Will has grown up with essentially nothing. He wakes up every day and goes to work to stay alive. Through a series of events, he decides that he’s not going to take it anymore, and he takes it upon himself to try and change the way things work in this world.”
Timberlake and Seyfried share a lot of screen time together in this film, and the chemistry between the two of them is excellent. When they first meet, they are a bit wary of each other, but as their relationship progresses, you can both see and feel their emotions as the two of them are irrepressibly drawn toward each other.
In the production notes Seyfried offered an interesting and perceptive analysis of her character.
“Sylvia dreads her life every day. She wants to have some kind of adventure. In a world like this, you spend so much time trying to protect your life that you don’t really end up living. Everybody has bodyguards. They all eat very well, but very little, they don’t drink or smoke; it’s mundane. Sylvia just isn’t made for this kind of life. She gets her wish for a different life when Will takes her away.”
Although I am not a huge fan of films set in the future, “In Time” (Give it a solid seven.) is driven by such an original premise that it really sucked me into the story. In fact I became so involved that I found myself anxiously squirming in my seat whenever Will or Sylvia’s body clocks began running low.
Those who enjoy action and adventure should find this film definitely worth their time. (Yes, I meant to say that.) It boasts a number of tension-filled scenes and several dandy car chases, and it also will make you aware of how precious life is.
And here’s another thing. Oh, sorry. I just ran out of time!