Movie Review: In Time

By Matthew Huntley

November 1, 2011

They're awfully dressed up for runners.

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In Time takes place in a futuristic society where the people have been genetically engineered to age until they’re 25. Once they meet that milestone, the clock starts ticking and a one-year countdown begins. Unless they continually add to their biological clock, which they monitor via a green digital readout on their wrist, people “time out” and die. As a result, time has become the world’s currency and it’s not so easy to come by.

Naturally, this system has created a social rift, with the rich and poor divided into different time zones. The rich live in beautiful, serene locations, with ocean view mansions and expensive restaurants; while the poor work in factories and occupy the ghettos. It’s only a matter of time before there’s an upheaval and the system fails.

Such a setup suggests In Time has all the makings of a fascinating science fiction thriller and an intelligent social commentary. It was written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who’s always been interested in stories about social justice and people’s willingness to fight back. Consider his writing and directing credits: Gattaca, The Truman Show, Lord of War. Each of these movies is about how a persecuting society drives people to take matters into their hands and independently pursue their right to happiness, even if it means going beyond the law.


Niccol is obviously a thoughtful and intelligent artist who always brings intriguing ideas to the table, but unfortunately, as a filmmaker, he doesn’t always know how to shape them into meaningful or exciting stories. After In Time presents its world to us and kicks off its plot, it gets comfortable and settles down as just another chase movie with clearly defined roles for the characters. In other words, it becomes routine.

The movie stars Justin Timberlake as Will Salas, a factory worker from the ghetto who lives paycheck to paycheck with his mom (Olivia Wilde). Will has been around and knows how the world works, which is why he’s cautious when he sees a strange man in a bar buying everybody drinks. The man is Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) and he’s got over a century of time on his wrist. Will warns him that flashing around that kind of wealth in the ghetto could either get him robbed or killed, and that’s exactly what a mob team called “The Minutemen” wants to do, but Will saves him and hides him out.

Henry, who is 105 years old in real time, tells Will the current time-based system, which they were told was implemented in order to control the population, is unnecessary and that there’s actually room for everybody on the planet. Henry can no longer tolerate the social and economic injustices taking place, so he gives Will his remaining years before timing out and falling off a bridge. Will is now wanted by the Time Keepers (the future’s version of the FBI) for Henry’s murder. They’re led by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), who has vowed to keep the balance of people and time in check.

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