(Gonna go back) In Time Review

In Time Review
By Bret Dorman

This movie was bad.

I’m not interested in building the suspense at all. Let’s just get it right out there. This movie was a bad movie. But all you need to do is really look at the trailer to see that. And I don’t mean just watch some guy run around for two and a half minutes. Or pretty ladies. I mean, try to understand what this movie is on a conceptual level based on the previews and it is clear this movie is missing a piece.

I heard some people on the way out saying “What a waste of potential…” Really?! What potenetial? Certainly not the action star potential of Timberlake. Or the plot…

The Story: Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a poor guy. He sneaks into the wealthy zone (in the future everything is divided into zones) and sort of kidnaps Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) and then they are hunted by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy). Also, time is money.

You’ll notice in the story description ‘time is money’ is not featured as a primary point in the plot. That’s because ‘time is money’ is not an inherent action concept. An interesting idea is not the same as an action movie concept. Here’s a crash course:


Jurassic Park is about reviving dinosaurs, having them escape, and hunting people. Easy action.

Predator is about an invisible alien hunting commandoes. Easy Action.

Mission: Impossibles are about a bunch of spies fighting each other. Easy action.

But in In Time, the idea of using time as currency is not an action concept. It is an interesting back drop. A very interesting back drop that allows for some unique nomenclature (time keepers = scary agents) and visuals (time on arm). But this movie spends its ENTIRE RUN TIME justifying this as an action concept. Ultimately, all the action comes from the fact that this guy wants to steal ‘time’ (aka ‘money’) from the wealthy and give it to the poor. The action itself has NOTHING to do with time = money. The action itself is just as generic as any other straight to DVD action movie wannabe.

And while we are at it, is the concept a valid one? I said it provides an interesting back drop for an action movie, but since this movie seems to have more of a political message on its mind lets think about it…

Time = money. People use money as currency. Okay. Somehow they rig it up so you can’t physically age over 25 and can transfer money with time readers (?) or a hand shake. And electronic green clocks are on your arm from birth. I am not interested in arguing against the science fiction of any of that in a science fiction movie. They said that’s how it works so I accept it.

But you can’t outright say time = money then use time as a ‘metaphor’ for money. “This movie is so deep because they are really talking about MONEY the whole TIME! Oh!!! So many levels!” I’m sorry, but no. How exactly does the time aspect add to the money metaphor? Perhaps if they used memories as currency and over time they lost all their original memories and ‘earned’ fake ones by working in factories, you could use it as a metaphor for corporations manipulating people into a mindless workforce? I don’t know… it’s not a perfect idea but adds an interesting layer… But here they use time as a metaphor because there are so many cliche lines that involve time that everytime they spout out one of these lines is adds ‘importance’ to the movie.

Back to the movie at hand… In Time features Will talking to Sylvia and her expressing feelings of boredom since she is so rich. Then he kidnaps her and she wants to go back. Then he lets her go back and she says “No! I want to go on an adventure!” So basically she flip flops in what she wants as it is convenient to the story. It’s something a lot of movies have done before it but it’s about TIME(!!!!!!) we put an end to it.

There’s a neat thing they do called ‘fighting’ where you can grab an opponents arm and drain his time. But really the way this seems to work is whoevers hand is on top does the draining. So instead of it being a mental challenge like our hero implies, it really is just a physical challenge. Keep your arm on top. Easy.

There is a decent car chase as Will escapes the rich section and later he has a confrontation with some gangsters that is cool in a quick way (although there is still something inadequate in the way he happens to get out of it). Those are about the only good parts.

Really, it is unclear as to why Will sneaks into the rich section then lets himself get caught, drained of time, only to decide after losing most his time to run away and fight back. As he enters the rich zones, he pays an immense amount of time taxes. And we can see the barriers go both ways, in and out. Yet after they point this out specifically… later when he has mere days on his arm he is able to leave, re-enter, and leave at will.

Another small small detail is several times in this movie people look at their arm clocks which show how much time they have left as though it were a real clock. This obviously doesn’t make sense. But let’s not bother people with that, you can’t show people real time and then ‘time = money’ time because they might get confused.

Finally… several moments in this movie a rich person will say to Will something about time and people needing to earn it and he can’t just ‘steal’ it and give it away. He retorts with “Is it stealing if it’s already stolen?” OOOHHHHHH! Sick Burn! You just got SERVED!!! OH SNAP!!! wait… how are they ‘stealing’ it exactly? This movie while wanting to make some sort of political-economic statement more than a good action movie never delves into how the rich are ‘stealing’ from the poor. It’s just mindless crowd pleasing. “Yeah! The rich have more than us! They must be STEALING it from us! USA! USA! USA!”

In fact one of the last things this movie ends on is seemingly how giving away ‘time’ (or ‘money’ for those of you who can’t keep up with this ‘metaphor’) will lead to no one wanting to work and the complete collapse of the country. And then… wait for it… a heroic moment of our two lover-heroes getting ready to rob more time-banks and give away more money! YAY!

It seems that instead of trying to develop an actual action concept dealing with time they just threw it over a generic concept dealing with a Robin Hood type figure. Imagine if instead of just having action scenes where these characters are constantly running away from everything, this movie was a heist movie. You know… where ‘timing’ plays a crucial part of the action and what is happening.

In conclusion, time = money is a good idea for giving small minor touches of your silly action movie a unique spin. But time = money is not a competent metaphor for going into the rich/poor gap or for action scenes. You still need a good story for that. Maybe In Time people will realize that… (see movie, I can do time puns too!)

Final Grade: F

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