At an unspecified time in the future, humans are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. Everyone has a bright green counter imbedded on their forearms which show how much time they have left to live. As a byproduct of this new system, time becomes currency; the rich have decades, even centuries to live, while the poor are lucky to have more than 24 hours on their arms at any one time. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) works at a factory and never has more time than hours in the day until a chance encounter with Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a rich man whose life he saves from a vicious gangster (Alex Pettyfer). Hamilton, though, doesn’t want to go on any longer and while Will sleeps, he transfers over his 116+ years of time. Before he can celebrate with his mother (Olivia Wilde), she runs out of time and dies, prompting Will to make it his mission in life to bring down the system. After being tracked to a mansion by Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), Will makes a hostage of his host’s daughter, Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), and sets out on the run. The pair soon becomes a futuristic version of Bonnie and Clyde as they attempt to stay one step ahead and right the wrongs their society has imposed on the poor.
Concept films almost never pan out, the reason being that ideas are easy to come up with; putting those ideas into motion is a different story. Make no mistake, writer/director Andrew Niccol has a great concept to work with. But as is often the case with sci-fi films, the concept at the heart of In Time is approximately one hundred billion times better than the film itself. This movie could succeed as a sci-fi book or short story but the way in which it is executed on screen makes for an excruciatingly bad experience.
In Time misses the mark on virtually every front. To start, it is rife with poor acting. No, that’s not enough. In truth, most of the performances within this movie are downright terrible. Niccol assembled a cast of attractive individuals who unfortunately have yet to figure out their way as actors, aside from Murphy, who looks like a man who knows he’s boarded a sinking ship. Timberlake, Seyfried, and Wilde may end up being worthwhile performers at some point but at this stage of their respective careers, they need real guidance and good material, neither of which is provided by Niccol. (It should be noted that I did not include Pettyfer in that list because while the others show at least some promise, Pettyfer does not. He is genuinely talentless.) In the end, though, the numerous sleepwalking portrayals and elementary-level dialogue don’t come close to measuring up to the train wreck that is this movie’s plot.
To list the holes within the plot would be to craft a short novel. Absolutely nothing about In Time works the way it is supposed to. The film simply doesn’t make a bit of sense on any level whatsoever. I’d love to know how it got green lit in the first place or how it made it past the test screening phase. It seems that no one anywhere in the chain of command ever asked some rudimentary questions about why this or that happens. Add to these crater-sized holes a staggering number of side plots that serve no purpose and receive no payoff. The most interesting character within the entire mess of a film is Timekeeper Leon and yet his development never enters into the equation.
Really what I’m saying in this review boils down to this: In Time is stupid. (I almost just wrote that sentence as my review but I felt that wouldn’t be received too well.) It is riddled with head-scratching plot holes, anemic dialogue, and cringe-inducing acting and worst of all it is a waste of an interesting and potentially dynamic concept which, as a sci-fi nerd, makes me furious. Stupid. It’s just stupid.