Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"IN TIME" (2011) Review




"IN TIME" (2011) Review

New Zealand-born director Andrew Niccol seemed to have developed a habit . . . or reputation for writing and directing a handful of science-fiction oriented movies with the theme of physical youth or some kind of artificial situation as a motif. The recent science-fiction thriller, "IN TIME" turned out to be his fourth (I think) movie in this genre.

Set in the year 2161, "IN TIME" told the story about a working-class factory worker named Will Salas, who lives in a world in which people are genetically created to stop aging at 25. However, they are given the means to buy their way out of instant death and live as long as possible as 25 year-olds by acquiring extra years as currency. Society is divided by social class living in 'Time Zones'. The poor live in the ghettos, working each day to earn a few more hours of life, which they must also use to pay for everyday necessities. The rich live in the luxurious New Greenwich, drive fast electric cars, and can live forever on the time they have acquired.

When Will best friend Borel save a rich 105-year-old man named Henry Hamilton from suffering a time-robbery assault by a mobster boss of the Minutemen gang named Fortis, Will leads Hamilton to safety. Although grateful to Will for saving his life, Hamilton is also mentally and emotionally weary at the idea of living eternally, he transfers all of his life years (116 years), except for five minutes to a sleeping Will. As his time expires, Hamilton commits suicide from a bridge. Will arrives too late to save him, realizes he has been filmed by a nearby surveillance camera, and flees the area. He ends up in New Greenwich, where he meets time-loaning businessman Philippe Weis and his 27-year-old daughter Sylvia Weis. But Raymond Leon, a member of the timekeepers, which is the resident police force arrive and accuse Will of murdering Hamilton. Using Sylvia Weis as a hostage, Will goes on the run and demands 1,000 years from Weis in exchange for the safety of his daughter.

Aside from "THE TRUMAN SHOW", I have never seen any of his other movies. But I must admit that I found Niccol's premise for "IN TIME" rather intriguing, which led to my decision to see the movie. "IN TIME" revealed a great deal of promise, especially in the first half of the film. The idea of humans being genetically altered to stop aging at the age of 25 as a means to deal with population control seemed very . . . well, creepy. I originally thought that the movie would focus upon the hero discovering a means to allow the human population to age naturally. By the time the movie reached its mid-point, I finally understood what it was really about. It occurred to me that "IN TIME" might be Niccol's allegory about capitalism and class distinctions. Just in today's society, possessing enough currency (money in our time and years in this movie) to live a long life of luxury and privilege; or live day by day, making the effort to stay alive and healthy.

"IN TIME" has a running time of 109 minutes. And I must admit that I believe Niccol did an excellent job of not only creating this future world in which aging stops at 25 and additional years are used as currency. I was also impressed by Niccol's storytelling in the movie's first hour or so. But once Will and Sylvia - his hostage-turned girlfriend - became allies and begin robbing her fahter's Time Banks to distribute years to the ghetto's population, the movie simply falls apart. It almost seems as Niccol had created this interesting premise and could not find a way to conclude the story. Because of this, the movie seemed to end on the same note as its mid-point - with Will and Sylvia robbing time banks. Even their decision to rob Philippe Weis of his precious Time Capsule near the end of the film came to nothing.

Fortunately for Niccol, "IN TIME" possessed a truly first rate cast. Justin Timberlake proved that the first-rate acting skills he had displayed in "THE SOCIAL NETWORK" had not been a fluke. He did an excellent job in not only carrying the film, but conveying his character's emotional and moral development. In her wig and heavy makeup, Amanda Seyfried almost looked comical and out of place, as the privileged youngest daughter of wealthy businessman Philippe Weis. Thankfully, her talents proved to be a lot more worthy than her hairstyle and makeup and she gave an excellent performance as the young socialite-turned bank robber and freedom fighter. Niccol must have been a fan of the television series, "MAD MEN". He chose the right actor to portray Sylvia's slimy businessman father. And I cannot deny that Vincent Kartheiser was perfect in the role. Cillian Murphy gave a subtle and complex performance as Raymond León, the obsessive timekeeper hunting for Will and Sylvia. Unfortunately for Murphy, his León ended up going no where by the movie's last half hour or so, thanks to Niccol's script. The movie also boasted solid performances from Olivia Wilde (Will's 50 year-old mother Rachel), Matt Bormer (Hamilton), Johnny Galecki (Will's best friend), and La Monde Byrd (León's second-in-command Rado). The only supporting performance that turned me off came from Alex Pettyfer. His portrayal of mob boss Fortis struck me as somewhat theatrical and over-the-top.

"IN TIME" possessed an intriguing premise and setting, thanks to Andrew Niccol's script. And it also boasted of a first-rate cast led by Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. Unfortunately, Niccol wasted it all with a story that ended with a whimper and no real conclusion. Pity. Because I believe it had the potential to be a first-rate story.

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