‘In Time’ is pun-tastically heavy-handed

Article Published: Nov. 3, 2011 | Modified: Nov. 3, 2011
‘In Time’ is pun-tastically heavy-handed

Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried star in ‘In Time.’

The concept behind the new sci-fi thriller, “In Time,” seems like a page written in … “The Twilight Zone.”

As host Rod Serling would attest, it’s a realm not only of sight and sound, but of mind. While high on sight and sound, the heavy-handed “In Time” is short on mind, squandering an excellent concept on often tedious action and an arsenal of time puns.

Imagine, if you will, a dystopian world where time is money, literally, and being short on time means living dangerously. Being out of time is outright deadly.

Sometime in the future, all of humanity is genetically engineered with a literal internal clock, displayed via glowing, green subcutaneous digits on their forearm. People stop aging at 25, when they’re granted a year’s worth of time to spend as they please. But if that time runs out, they die.

Time, however, also serves as currency, meaning that people must make time (get it?) to survive. But with an ever-increasing cost of living, the working class lives from day to day, essentially from paycheck to paycheck, while the rich are practically immortal.

Not very Orwellian in the metaphor department as far as subtlety goes, its message, while well-meaning, is almost oppressively heavy-handed. It’s essentially a sci-fi take on social stratification and the 99 Percent Movement, only with futuristic car chases, shootouts and repetitive puns.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, “The Social Network”) is a working-class joe, struggling to keep himself and his mother (Olivia Wilde, “Cowboys & Aliens”) afloat and alive. One day, he encounters Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer, “Flightplan”), a 100-plus-year-old man who is simply tired of living. Hamilton explains that the system is designed to keep the poor oppressed, so that the rich may thrive, hence the skyrocketing cost of living (a cup of coffee costs four minutes). Leaving himself enough time to properly fall from a bridge, Hamilton transfers a century’s worth of time to Will.

With so much time on his hands (sorry), Will leaves the ghettos for posh New Greenwich, intent on striking back at the unjust system. See, different social classes live in different, cordoned-off areas called (sigh) Time Zones, monitored by (sigh) Time Keepers. One such keeper is the dogged and determined Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, “Sunshine”), who suspects Will of murdering Hamilton.

He follows Will to New Greenwich, where an attempt at apprehension results in Will taking obscenely rich heiress Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried, “Red Riding Hood”), the daughter of a billionaire banker (Vincent Kartheiser, “Rango”), hostage.

When she realizes what it’s like to live day to day, Sylvia sympathizes with the people’s plight. Already wanted by the authorities, the two embark on a Bonnie and Clyde-esque crime spree, robbing her father’s time banks and distributing the timely wealth to the poor, thus upsetting the system’s cruel balance.

Like the story’s faulty system, “In Time” is unbalanced. The only consistency throughout is its relentless barrage of time puns, though celebrated cinematographer Roger Deakins (“The Shawshank Redemption”) brings a superb visual panache to the picture. It’s the big picture that’s lacking.

Director and writer Andrew Niccol (“Lord of War”) could have taken a more thoughtful approach to a story rich in metaphor, but seems to have underestimated his audience.

“In Time’s” repeated message is unnecessarily heavy-handed, especially for anyone who’s ever lived from paycheck to paycheck. We got it the first time.

“In Time,” rated PG-13 for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and strong language, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 15-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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