film review: In Time (2011)5 Comments
In Time is the latest film from writer/director Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed Gattaca. I love Gattaca. Really, it’s one of my top 10 films. So obviously this meant I had fairly high hopes for In Time. Not massively high because well, S1m0ne was a bit of a strange one and I’d heard pretty poor reports of Lord of War… but still, I liked the concept…
In Time is set in a world where time has literally become money. Each child is born with 1 year in the wallet (a glowing set of figures on their arm) and at the age of 25 they stop ageing and start spending the money on their clock. Time can be earned and spent and when it runs out, poof, you’re dead.
It sounded like a potentially fascinating setting for a film. Unfortunately, with In Time, Niccol has wasted the concept. It actually starts off reasonably strong, I’ll spare you the details but basically JT is a lowly factory worker, working to his last minutes every day. One night he comes across a mysterious stranger who, for relatively interesting reasons, gives him a lot of money. I liked that, there were myriad directions to go in with that idea… and that’s the problem.
This film has no idea what it’s trying to say. Time is money. Great. Money brings you time. Cool. Now what? Apparently “what” is a “cat and mouse game” brought about by a ridiculous misunderstanding. Which develops into some kind of a bloodless Bonnie & Clyde caper. Somewhere, somehow, I think they were trying to make some commentary on society, but it was hard to tell as they desperately tried fabricate a whole bunch of unnecessary villans while throwing in a few scenes where we could appreciate how good-looking the leads were.
It really just didn’t know how to stick the knife in… if indeed that’s what it was trying to do. What we’re left with is bits and pieces of ideas. They’re obviously trying to make a comment on banks and the current economic situation, but then they seemed to get scared of it. They danced around, having a peek at it, then backing away and bringing the film back into its (weak) characters. And the heist stuff, that could have been fun, but they had no time, no time. And what about Cillian Murphy’s timecop? He could have been quite the character… but we had to go take a wander down thug town for no reason. This film could have been fascinating and insightful, I mean that time is money is a good strong concept. But no. It was not to be.
Ahh… to be honest I don’t really want to go to hard on it. You might like the fact that it’s quite light for such a lofty concept. I didn’t but then I am quite the sci-fi fan and dystopia is my fiction of choice. So really, this movie just spit at me. I mean, don’t get me started on how messy the actual mechanics of using money is in this society. Really. It’s just, it makes no sense. It kills me a little.
Oh, if you’re wondering if JT can act, he’s ok. Nothing to write home about. Following up The Social Network with a couple of comedies was a good idea but he’ll have to work a bit harder on the next one if he wants to get any respect.
I suppose the main problem I had was that, the stranger and his motivations at the beginning had made the film seem quite ambitious, but in the end it turned completely away from that. I just hope that some time, in the future, someone takes the “time is money” thing and actually runs with it. It could even be Niccol again if he promises to make a proper movie with it. I love his aesthetic but… Why? Why did he do this?