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In Time (2011)
Writer and director: Andrew Niccol

review by J.C. Hartley

Hold on, does this mean the remake of Logan's Run will be stuck in development hell forever? Hearing about this film, Harlan 'I wrote everything' Ellison decided he might have been plagiarised on account of similarities to his 1965 short story "Repent, Harlequin!" Said The Ticktockman. Although initially holding out for a screen credit, after seeing the film Harlan issued a statement allowing the filmmakers to live.

A little voiceover lays out the scenario. In 2169, genetic clocks are stopped at the age of 25, people no longer age, and immortality is a possibility, but, as usual, there's a catch. As soon as people reach 25, they only have one more year to live and have to work, or alternatively beg, steal, or borrow, to get extra time. Physical contact, wrist to wrist, can transfer time - minutes, hours, days, months, years - and a digital display shows the current balance.

The film begins with a clever illustration of the situation, Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives with his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde, Tron: Legacy) who is of course as gorgeous a young woman as she was when she was 25. Their obvious affection for each other is therefore unsettling; it's his mom, not his girlfriend. Will and Rachel live in Dayton where the people live from day to day, or hour to hour, preyed upon by the Minutemen led by the inevitable Brit thug Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) who threatens to literally 'clean the clocks' of his victims by stealing their time.

Will works at a local factory making devices that hold time but tops up his earning by high stakes poker, or by fighting. The pot in poker is time and the fights are a sort of arm-wrestle where the combatants seek to run down each other's clock. When Will rescues the profligate Hamilton from a confrontation with Fortis in a bar, the latter rewards him with a transfer of his full complement of years, before committing suicide. A remark by Hamilton that "for few to be immortal, many must die" reveals the lie at the basis of this society, it is not the fear of over-population that drives the economy it is the maintenance of a tiered society whereby vast resources of living time are (literally) in relatively few hands.

Clearly, In Time is a rather obvious satire on the capitalist system; in our own world a redistribution of wealth, say from the military-industrial hegemony, could end world poverty, see the deserts bloom, put a man on Mars, and see our own planet Earth become the paradise it was so obviously intended to be. Some critics of In Time, while praising the concept, have bemoaned the realisation, seeing it as a fairly predictable action flick in which Timberlake's Will takes on the might of the status quo, but I think it's enjoyable enough on whatever level you want to take it.

When Rachel dies for the sake of the hours to pay her bus fare home, Will uses his years to buy a taxi-ride out of Dayton through the various demarcated time-zones to the high-rolling city-state of Greenwich. Here, he is spotted by Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried); Will gives his origins away by running, and bolting his food. At a casino, Will plays high-stakes poker and wins a thousand years head-to-head with Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) a time-rich banker and Sylvia's father. Invited to a party at the Weis mansion, Will is arrested by Time-Keeper Leon (Cillian Murphy, Sunshine), who suspects his involvement in Hamilton's death and the removal of his time, confiscating Will's years in the process.

Will takes Sylvia hostage and the pair go on the run, Sylvia being bound to Will when an ambush by Fortis results in Sylvia having most of her time stolen. Eventually, armed and dangerous, like a future Bonnie and Clyde (a clear reference point), the pair take on the banks, liberating time into the ghettoes and attempting to bring down the whole economy minute-by-minute.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, it could have been more political, and more philosophical, but it conformed to Godard's adage that all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun. The nuts and bolts of the central conceit are glossed over, this is the situation, to attempt to give it the sheen of plausibility with some hard science would just expose the nonsense at its heart; as it stands it's a brilliant notion. Well worth 100 minutes of anyone's time.

In Time on blu-ray

In Time DVD

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