johnlink ranks IN TIME (2011)

On a particularly lazy day, one in which a battery recharge was needed, I followed up Pixar’s BRAVE with a light popcorn flick called IN TIME. I held a hate-on for Justin Timberlake for no good reason other than his youthful connection to ‘N Sync. What a terrible era of music that was. He started to win me back with good turns on SNL and by seeming to be a decent human being. I was fully turned when I saw his wonderful performance in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. And now I am a Justin Timberlake fan. If 2012 me told 1999 me that I had become a JT fan, 1999 me would punch 2012 me in the face and ask questions later. 1999 me was an angry person.

I watched IN TIME (2011) on 7.14.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

IN TIME has a wonderful sci-fi premise. Money is gone. Aging stops at 25. Instead, you get one year to live from the time you turn 25. From that point forward you can spend and earn time. You can steal and be thieved of time. Some have centuries, others have minutes. When the clock (displayed in bright green across your arm) hits 13 zeros, you drop dead. Great premise, really. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol who also pulled double-duty in creating GATTACA and LORD OF WAR, as well as with the less successful S1M0NE. Incidentally, Niccol also wrote one of my favorite sci-fi pictures: THE TRUMAN SHOW.

GATTACA is great sci-fi with a great premise. S1M0NE was a solid premise which fell apart on screen. Unfortunately, IN TIME is closer to the latter than the former. Filled with great ideas, the execution of these ideas on the screen is unfocused and less than confident. Rather than making good, smart science fiction, this film seems much more concerned with looking pretty and being cool. Looking pretty and being cool can be great if done with effect, like in the first MATRIX. It can be annoying and unimpressive if done poorly, like in the other two MATRIX films.

Set in an alternate pseudo-present, this film gives us a city with maybe 15 districts. The closer you are to 1, the richer you are. Justin Timberlake’s Will lives in 12. He lives day to day, never waking up with more than 24 hours to live. He goes to work to earn himself some time, he gambles a little, he spends time he doesn’t have on champagne for his mother (who, remember, also looks 25). Through a random act, he ends up with lots of time. He decides to try and move to the rich district, but that presents problems since it is assumed he did not earn his time honestly. There he meets a young debutante, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Soon the Timekeepers are after Will, they being the organization responsible for the proper dispersal of time. One in particular, Raymond (Cillian Murphy), is doggedly pursuing Will with seemingly unmotivated vigor.

I consider that summary and think “Cool concept. Really cool concept.” Sadly, what gets put on screen just doesn’t quite use it well. In HUNGER GAMES we are very clear on who is rich and who is poor, based on the district we are seeing. There is no mistaking rich and poor. IN TIME, on the other hand, is worried about presenting people who are not stunningly beautiful. The poor people all have nice clothes, nice homes, nice streets. Maybe there is a spot of dirt on someone’s face, or maybe the bars they drink in have some bulbs out, but nothing is being mistaken for Skid Row here. I assumed when Will went up to District 4 that there would be some giant jump in style. And, sure, the hotel is nicer and the food is nicer, and the views are nicer. But, except for the villain (Vincent Kartheiser), people seem, well… pretty much the same everywhere. We know who is rich and who is poor because we are told, and because there is some marginal difference. But this movie is so much more interested in letting us look at pretty people than it is about effective storytelling.

In the middle of all this is a chase flick with Justin Timberlake running around. His character, Will, is easily the best part of the film. I’m not sure if they had this in mind when casting, but there is a nice mirror effect happening here. Will is in a rich world which he is not comfortable with. This is matched up against Justin Timberlake, newly an actor, mixing it up with professionals. There is a rough and unpolished feel to Timberlake’s performance. And while he was much better in THE SOCIAL NETWORK because he was asked to do more, his work on IN TIME provides the movie with precisely what it needs: a fish out of water. This is, in no way, a derogatory statement. The acting is not poor. It just feels raw.

But a lot of this movie is a mess, with the biggest culprit being the character of Raymond. As the lead Timekeeper, Cillian Murphy’s acting works. But the movie never really knows what it wants to do with him. He’s sort of good, sort of bad, somewhat moral, kind of sympathetic. Sometimes a film doesn’t tell its actors how a movie will end. I’m not sure they did that here, but the character doesn’t know where he is going. I was hoping this would lead to some cool payoff at the end, some sort of conflicted moral challenge. We aren’t so lucky. Ultimately, the movie just does not know what to do with his character.

So, anyway, this was entertaining and inoffensive enough to watch once. It has some fun, it has a unique concept, and it brings some nice action. It’s a sad waste of potential, however, and rather than being a cool neo-noir flick, it sort of stagnates as a film too interested in being a box office hit than trying to push any edges of the genre’s margins.

SCORES

FILM: 3; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 5; WRITING: 4

3+6+5+4+0=18

FINAL SCORE: 4.5

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~ by johnlink00 on July 15, 2012.

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