In essence, In Time is a sci-fi movie that aims high but fails to make itself exceptional. This does not prevent it from being entertaining, though, and I found it pretty enjoyable. But the spanner in the works for me was the very premise itself.
Now perhaps it is the mark of a writing or sci-fi elitist to analyze In Time's premise and get frustrated over how illogical it was. Perhaps I should have just been able to sit back, let it all wash over me, and be carried away by the action. But that isn't me; I couldn't do it. I spent much of the movie dissecting the setting, the characters, and raising many an eyebrow in skepticism and frustration.
The Valuation of Time
In Time presents the premise of a world that has found a way to trade years, months, days, minutes of your life among the population of the world. For no particular reason, at the age of 25, a timer on your arm appears and activates, counting down one more year of your life before you die. This remaining time can be subtracted or added to without limit as a currency. Justin Timberlake finds himself with over a century's worth of time and resolves upon himself to overthrow the system (this is not a spoiler, as you can gather this clearly from any trailer for the movie).
Avast! Spoilers ahead! Yarr.
Let me try and explain everything that is messed up with this system.
- The entire economy is based on the currency of time, which is absolutely insane. Not only does it make you wonder how on earth this ever got established and who thought this was a good idea (never explained), but the prices are mind-boggling. 5 minutes of your life for a shitty hamburger? A couple months to travel across time zones? A freaking year to buy a swanky sports car? God only knows what the cost of a house is... How on earth does insurance work? These absurd questions lead directly into my next point...
- Because the world is so onerous, why does it take so long for people to overthrow it? Sure, it's a nice thought that one could live forever, but when it is so bad that you walk past corpses every day and have to toss away hours of your life just to ride on a bus for ten minutes, you'd expect people to get just a little upset, to put it lightly. Instead, everyone seems rather chill with it. Hell, one of the characters is given a free decade at one point and receives it with the same emotion that one feels when you finish an errand for the day. Price hikes are treated with grumbles but nothing more. What's wrong with these people?
- And it isn't like much is stopping them from changing it either. The timekeepers (essentially the police) are singularly incompetent. In one of the scenes, the head timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) knows where the good guys are going to be and so, naturally, decides to ambush them completely on his own without reinforcements by driving up nearby, pulling out his gun, and marching over to where they are, smugly pointing it at them, as if nobody will notice. Naturally, after at least a minute of him strolling over when he could have killed them both multiple times, the good guys notice and take him down no problem. Talk about idiot villains.
- Not to mention that nobody seems to fear the timekeepers whatsoever, as evidenced by people making fun of them to their face when left to their own devices. Why have they not rebelled before if the police force in charge of them are treated as an ineffectual joke? Also, why the hell are the timekeepers crippled in efficacy by keeping them on the cusp of dying all the time? They never seem to have more than a few hours available to them; god forbid their assigned investigation turns out longer than expected. Naturally, the idiocy of this policy is encapsulated by Cillian Murphy's anticlimactic death at the end; right as he finally successfully apprehends the good guys, he realizes he's out of time and keels over dead. Nice planning, dude.
- Let's not even get into how rash and thoughtless Justin Timberlake acts throughout the movie. Actually, let's. He takes his century of life, full knowing that he'll be hunted for it, and brings it right into the heart of the society's upper class to binge it all on gambling? Aside from the obvious stupidity of, "What the hell are you doing gambling away hundreds of years for?" he does this where he is most likely to be recognized as out of place and located immediately. The incompetence of the timekeepers is the only thing that saves him.
- Amanda Seyfried looks like an alien and sounds like a 6-year old. Nothing more needs to be said.
There's probably more ways I could rip into it, but I'm going to stop there. Because, even though the premise and sci-fi background of this movie is hopelessly flawed, the movie still managed to be entertaining. Despite his ineffectiveness, Cillian Murphy manages to provide a great performance that reminded me of Javert from Les Miserables. The movie is stylish. The cinematography great. And, even though it felt treated on a somewhat surface level, the theme of daring to take a risk and make a leap was a good one.
But this definitely isn't an intellectual movie. Though it had movement and kept my interest enough to watch it all the way through, it felt... superficial. It felt like it had been dumbed down; every scene of dialogue was followed immediately by an action scene as if afraid that the audience would fall asleep. It felt like it was calibrated to the lowest common denominator of movie goer; perhaps this is why the premise was so neutered and implausible? And everyone in the movie was beautiful (besides the alien). I'm not complaining, but it seems another indicator of the movie's effort to appeal to everyone and make a lot of money.
So is it worth seeing? Up to you. But I don't think I'll recommend it unless it is accompanied by a drinking game over premise imperfections. Every time you see a plot hole, drink!