Review: In Time (2011)

Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Starring: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy

As a fledgling filmmaker, Andrew Niccol quickly established a name for himself via an apparent ability to fuse human emotion and relevant social commentary together inside cleverly crafted settings. Granted, this success can only be attributed to his freshman and sophomore efforts, Gattaca and The Truman Show respectively, yet to say that the films in question were and are anything less than consistently engaging and insightful would be subject to dispute only by matter of one’s personal taste. After a couple of agreeably divisive projects, Niccol has returned once again to grace us with a not-so-subtle vision of a less than desirable future: one that sees us as humans substituting time for money as a clever yet oft clumsily utilized device that relies a bit too heavily on consistent criticism of our country’s current economic state.

Starting off promising enough, In Time is essentially a simple-minded examination of mankind’s descent into monetary class-based obsession. The ideas presented within the film’s opening act, while embarrassingly dead set on establishing themselves as the film’s flimsy framework, function effectively to an extent until the film attempts to engross us from a familiar sci-fi action-based standpoint. Sporadically entertaining as the proceedings sometimes are, Niccol tries his best to strike a competent balance between its half-assed humanistic sensibilities and a heavy-handed, overstuffed plot in a not so successful manner.

Pairing a textbook, emotionally vacant rags-to-riches tale that chronicles the unlikely rise of one Will Salas with an eventual Bonnie and Clyde-meets-Robin Hood-type plot trajectory, Niccol also can’t seem to figure out what he wants this film to be. While the action-oriented bits are spastic if impressive enough to at least hold your attention, the script is constantly bogged down by an ongoing identity crisis and socioeconomic undertones that are as subtle as a brick sailing through your bedroom window. Thankfully, it’s easy enough to admire Niccol’s ability to create, from scratch, the squalor-ridden and aesthetically sleek world our characters inhabit, yet what he fills this world with generally tends to bore rather than stimulate.

Justin Timberlake continues to steadily impress in roles that require him to take the proverbial wheel, portraying Mr. Salas with enough gusto to keep us at least mildly emotionally invested in his character’s plight and eventual rise to infamy. Seyfried as the privileged Sylvia Weis is nothing special as to be expected, however ample chemistry between her and the male lead assure that the aforementioned, overly familiar narrative twist remains somewhat convincing amid an inevitable and mostly unnecessary romance between them. The rest of the supporting cast is serviceable despite In Time‘s ineffective attempts to humanize most of the characters, Murphy a little more so than others, and all in all, they can’t really prevent or save the film from being the clunky mess that it is.

Wholeheartedly squandering what little appeal its central premise has early on in the proceedings, In Time relies a bit too heavily on one-sided, overbearing socioeconomic commentary instead of subtly addressing such an obviously relevant topic. Writer/director Andrew Niccol’s knack for incorporating an above average visual aesthetic into his work is undeniably present, however an overwhelming sense of emotional detachment and mildly entertaining snippets of suspense-laden action further add to the film’s ever-expanding list of woes. Some may find the film a little less than tiresome, but to watch it through from start to finish without drawing any of the uninspired comparisons I’ve made would be a hard feat indeed.

Rating: 3/10

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