It is going to take some time to explain the basics of In Time.
The concept is simple, but the plot is complex.
In the future, you age until you’re 25. Then you stop. As long as you can buy, borrow or steal enough time to stay alive, you can live forever. You never age. Run out of time and a never-identified ticker inside your own ticker stops ticking. You die.
Time is exchanged via a florescent clock permanently etched on your forearm. You’re apparently born with it. That is never explained. To get time from another or give time to someone or to pay a bill, the forearm is linked to another in one of those ancient handshakes you see in Roman or Greek soldier movies. Put the arm under a time-storage device and you can earn some time or give some in payment for this service or that.
For those in the ghettos, where Justin Timberlake’s Will Salas lives, getting enough time to stay alive is a major struggle. The cost of staying alive keeps increasing. A transit trip goes from one hour of time to two in an instant. Inflation is a dangerous reality.
Lines outside of a mission aren’t for food. The down-and-out are looking for free time. Loans for time in metaphorical payday loan stores have astronomical interest rates. Once you borrow, it takes forever just to pay the interest. But you have forever.
Everyone is segregated into time zones. Each time zone is more expensive than the one before. To travel from the ghetto time zone to the zone where the rich live costs a year. To stay in a swank hotel is a month.
All advantages are for the rich. They have no problems living forever. The poor eventually run out of options and die.
When Salas saves a rich guy from being mugged and killed by the time bandits that prey on the ghetto poor, his attempt to live forever changes forever. The man he saves is 100-plus years old and tired of living.
He ends up giving Salas all of his time and then dies.
When he heads for the better life in the rich zone, Cillian Murphy’s timekeeper catches Salas and finds out his ultimate goal. Once captured, Salas gets the jump on the timekeeper’s crew and kidnaps the daughter of a rich time dealer — done by an almost unrecognizable Amanda Seyfried.
They fall in lust and do the Robin Hood thing and start stealing time from daddy.
Complex, yes. Complexity, however, doesn’t necessarily make a concept that interesting. It is written and directed by Andrew Niccoli, who did the innovative and impressive The Truman Show and and wrote and directed the very different and, while not very good, but also impressive S1m0ne.
The message of Niccoli’s film is relevant and fits today’s political climate. In his film, the rich have all the advantages and manipulate the system. They get more time and the poor less. Today, critics say the rich are getting richer and the rich — via their own greed and corporate greed — are ever widening the gap between themselves and the poor and the almost non-existent middle class.
The conclusion: wealth should be shared.
Some techniques Niccoli uses to paint his metaphor are interesting. Other than children, everyone looks the same age. Old people look young and it’s bizarre to see a young Justin Timberlake calling a drop-dead gorgeous and equally young Olivia Wilde "mom." When they hug, it is Oedipus kind of creepy.
Part of Niccoli’s premise is that we are not meant to live forever. Old money — or in this case, old time — is clean to the point of antiseptic. The rich, except for Seyfried’s Sylvia, have a waxy look and plastic skin. They’re too clean. Too neat. The rich don’t take chances. They’re bored, boring and predictable.
Too predictable maybe. But so is Niccoli’s movie.
He has a great cast — especially Murphy as the timekeeper — that works hard to sell a semi-interesting idea as it rips off bits and pieces other equally semi-interesting sci-fi pieces such as antiquity’s Logan’s Run from 1976 and 1974’s Zardoz.
Niccoli leaves too many holes in his plot. Either he skates over too much detail or he makes it overly simplistic. It’s ironic that the writer of a movie about time should have taken more time on the production. So if the movie’s metaphor of time really being money fits, it leads to this question.
Is this time really worth your money?
Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes, some violence. It opens Friday, Oct. 28 at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and Grand Cinemas Walla Walla.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.