Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Film Review: In Time

In Time (2011)
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 109 min
Geners: Action | Sci-Fi | Thriller

Justin Timberlake as Will Salas (Our Hero!)
Olivia Wilde as Rachel Salas (Our Hero's Mother!)
Shyloh Oostwald as Maya
Johnny Galecki as Borel
Colin McGurk as Citizen
Will Harris as Ulysse
Michael William Freeman as Nardin
Jesse Lee Soffer as Webb
Aaron Perilo as Bell
Nick Lashaway as Ekman
William Peltz as Pierre
Ray Santiago as Victa
Matt Bomer as Henry Hamilton
Zuleyka Silver as Pasha
Laura Ashley Samuels as Sagita
Amanda Seyfried as Sylvia Weis (Our Heroine!)
Vincent Kartheiser as Philippe Weis (Our Evil Villain)
Cillian Murphy as The Timekeeper (Our Corrupt Villain)
and a host of others, all of whom are out of time.

I enjoy science fiction, both reading and in film.  What I don't like is bad sci-fi, and while In Time doesn't really qualify as bad, it comes pretty close to the bottom in places and I'm not sure it completely decompresses when it starts to surface.  Here's why, without spoilers.

I took a one hour seminar a little while back where a published author attempted to explain the process of creating a consistent, believable world.  Believe me, it's no small matter.  Inconsistencies stick out like a sore tentacle.  Take Jurassic Park (1993) for instance.  The premise is very promising - giant carnivorous monsters safely trapped on a remote island so the victims can't just run away or dial 9-1-1, a nice jungle environment that provides lots of cover and promise of exotic poisonous plants, and the inevitable selection of nubile females who we all hope will lose critical portions of their clothing.  However, a few explanations might be in order.  'Splain just why it is that an otherwise intelligent scientist would build a fifty ton carnivore instead of a five pound herbivore?  The food bills alone will bankrupt the project before it gets off the ground.  And then why would an otherwise reasonable person completely fail to build an adequate pen for the fifty ton buffalo muncher?  Then you can 'splain just why these same brilliant scientific types would build a pack of intelligent carnivores that show signs of more than rudimentary intelligence and are fertile, thus making more of themselves on their own?  And then, finally, you can explain why oh why an experienced large game hunter would fail to arm himself and his crew with weapons adequate to the task of dropping any or all of these monsters when some minimum wage slave fails to lock the cage door after pen cleaning time?  I'm thinking .50 caliber machine gun here, but feel free to suggest alternatives - just remember that I want a trophy to take home, so you can nix the rocket launcher idea.

In Time is set in the future, and from the medical advances I'm guessing it's a pretty far piece down the road.  If you don't expire by suicide or misadventure, you remain at 25 years old forever.  Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?  Ah, but then you'll have to put up with your mother in law forever.  Think about that for a minute, and maybe you'll remember that slip and fall accidents are very common.  The insect polluting the utopia is that everyone is given a brand new kind of biological clock, one that counts down.  If you want to keep on living, you have to add time to the clock.  If your clock hits the magic number, you are said to have timed out and you are dead right there.  Blooie!  All done.  People can transfer time back and forth by holding hands, which enables time as the preferred medium of exchange.  So, there is no money anymore.  No bucks, yen, baht, gilders, pesos, francs or pounds.  Coffee is five minutes, up from three last week.
Money isn't the only thing missing here either.  There isn't any chemistry between any of the actors.  No one is a good catalyst for another, or maybe it's the director (Andrew Niccol), but it's definitely a lack of something.  Individually, these actors should be able to play their assigned parts very well, but they don't.  For instance, Vincent Kartheiser should be able to play an evil sociopath with delusions of divinity, but he comes off like a parking valet.  Cillian Murphy has a few moments, but he displays no evidence of being bulletproof and his performance is so forgettable that he just doesn't make a good villain.  That means our hero doesn't really deserve to win, but since there isn't much stopping him he might as well take one for the team.  Or something.

Amidst all this advanced science and stupidity are the sets and costumes.  The costuming is dumb, and is virtually indistinguishable from anything you might see today.  I'd hoped for more - or less.  I got neither.  The sets are very good, and easily set the scene for the future.  Actually, the sets make for the only really believable part of the world.  While we're immersed in this high tech future it's nice to see that a few things have survived the test of time.  The model 1911 .45 is still with us, along with standard ammunition.  The idea of caseless ammo evidently never work out, nor did energy weapons.  Cell phones are still around.  Automobiles still exist, but most are a uniform flat black and look like circa 1975 Lincoln Continental limousines.

The real bottom line for On Time is a protest against the evils of capitalism, and it has all the subtlety of an action adventure film that was written, produced and directed by The Brady Bunch.  People with several thousand years on their clock behave differently than The Great Unwashed, all of whom are too noble and pure of heart to display any form of class envy.  Oh well...

I'd rate the film as a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10, but don't let me dissuade you from seeing it for yourself.  As for me, I know for a fact that I should have waited for the DVD on Netflix.

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