2011, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol.
Let me start by saying that I have a weakness for thought-provoking science fiction movies that are well executed.
Imagine a world where someone has figured out how to capture, add to, and delete from the remaining time of any individual’s natural lifespan. There is no money; anything that can be bought or sold is traded in terms of time – a few minutes for a cup of coffee, a couple of hours for a bus ride, decades for a car. Generations of genetic engineering means no one physically ages past 25 but once you turn 25, you have only one year of free life left.
The poor work every minute they can as soon as that clock starts ticking down to replenish their lifespan time. Most live at a basic subsistence level with barely more than 24 hours left to them at any given point in a day, so they run everywhere they go performing tasks as quickly as possible. They cannot afford the luxury of simply taking a few minutes to enjoy their family or savor a peaceful moment. Conversely, the wealthy have accumulated so much time they can live for hundreds of years – and never look a day over 25. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the rich control the price of everything the poor need to buy.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is one of the hardworking poor. So far he has managed to survive 3 years beyond his 25th birthday when he suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a gift he didn’t ask for; a century of time from a man who had tired of being one of the idle rich and wanted to die. At first Will wants a taste of what he’s never had; a glimpse of how the 1% live and the opportunity to experience it for himself. It isn’t long, though, before Will is identified as an imposter in the wrong time zone. Having all that time makes him a threat to the system that allows the very wealthy to live forever and keeps the poor too busy with basic survival to question why the system works the way it does.
Justin Timberlake is very good as Will Salas and Amanda Seyfried does a nice job in her role as the rich girl who may be just bored enough to seek out a little adventure. The way the plot unfolds is pretty standard as a nice young man gets caught up in a situation not of his making and must survive by his wits while he drags a pretty girl along with him. What elevates this movie above just another formulaic ho-hum predictable thriller wannabe is the idea that time has replaced money and everything – from the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the apartment you rent – is valued in time. (This is a very entertaining and original sci-fi movie, but not superior to Source Code. If you missed Source Code in a theater, see it on disc! Director Duncan Jones delivered a Hitchcockian thriller with a mind-blowing premise that will have an observant viewer pondering possible alternative outcomes for a very long time.)
The creepiest aspect of In Time is that there is not a single person who looks older than 25. Everyone appears to be young and healthy as if the Shangri-La of Lost Horizon has grown to encompass the entire globe. But this is no Shangri-La where peace and harmony are valued above all else; when money doesn’t exist, what do greedy people seek to accumulate? What will they do when a Robin Hood-style champion of the people starts taking time from the rich and giving it to the poor? After seeing this movie you won’t be able to use the phrase “living on borrowed time” without thinking about an entirely different meaning.