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It is never explained why the society depicted in In Time has moved to using minutes of life as currency. Instead of cash, gold or stocks, the humans of 2161 work for and barter with their futures. Scientists also have isolated a gene that allows everyone to stop aging at 25, at which time humans are given a year to live, the remainder conveniently displayed on their arm, and must earn additional time however they can. Writer/Director Andrew Niccol's grim dystopian fantasy is not quite the stark criticism of the wealth/power balance he may have intended, but it does provide interesting entertainment and a fresh take on class warfare.
Society is split into several time zones, and poor factory workers like Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) live in ghettos like Dayton, where people generally awaken each morning with less than 24 hours on their arms. To make matters worse, Dayton's Minutemen gang, led by boss Fortis (Alex Pettfyer), often clean the clocks of local residents. Stashing time is a death sentence in Dayton, and Will intervenes in a fight between Fortis and Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a wealthy man holding over a decade of time, to save him from expiration. Hamilton explains how the very rich can live forever at the expense of the poor by constantly increasing the cost of living in Dayton, and transfers his remaining minutes to Will before allowing his clock to run out. Taking Henry's last request to not waste his time to heart, Will sets out to target the traders hoarding society's precious minutes.
In Time adapts the retro future look of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, where the surroundings appear simultaneously updated and rundown. Will travels to New Greenwich, where the wealthy gamble with years of life and a hotel stay costs a month. There he meets time-loaning mogul Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and his daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), who joins Will on his fight to free the oppressed. Will's movements do not go unnoticed, and Timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), who is responsible for maintaining the time allocation status quo, begins tracking the newfound radicals.
Although the proceedings have a slightly Occupy Wall Street feel, In Time is too superficial to be either meaningful or irritating. Will and Sylvia start robbing her father's time banks and giving out free minutes to the poor, which angers Weis, Leon and Fortis, abet for different reasons. Although their pictures are splashed across every video screen in the district, Will and Sylvia often go unnoticed in Dayton. Leon becomes more desperate to find them as he faces increased pressure from his higher-ups. Like the society it depicts, In Time is slick and sterile; the story is always intriguing, but the film fails to reach deep into the subject. It is clear why humans might like to stop aging, but why a society would ever barter with actual minutes of life is confounding. Even taking that concept in stride, In Time is shaky on the logistics, and it never pins down exactly when time can be transferred or stolen. There is also a greater theme of humanity hinted at - when neighbors lend each other time and people stand in line at the Mission for spare minutes - but never fully explored.
Niccol, who directed the similarly stylish Lord of War, as well as Gattaca, nails the setting and bleak mood, but has a bit of trouble with rhythm and pacing. In Time is trimmed of fat, but some scenes miss the beats that could have made them stronger. Timberlake is appropriately low key, and Murphy subtly chews the scenery to create an effective antagonist. Seyfried's character is scarcely written, but her performance recalls Sylvia's comments that her choices in life are rarely based on emotion. Pettyfer and Olivia Wilde are successful in their small roles, as is Bomer, who effectively convinces Will of the injustice occurring all around him. Because In Time is so surface-conscious, bits about Will's father and longtime friend Borel (Johnny Galecki) feel underdeveloped. In Time presents an interesting concept that is ripe for a more thorough analysis.
Fox gives In Time a stunning 2.35:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that is every bit as slick as the film. Detail is excellent throughout, and backgrounds are deep and textured. From the neon numbers on Will's arm to Sylvia's diamond earrings to Pettyfer's colorful suits, every detail is showcased with perfect sharpness and clarity. Black levels are flawless, and every bit of the action is visible in nighttime scenes. Colors are bold and warm and exhibit perfect saturation. Although In Time was shot digitally, it retains an attractive, film-like appearance. The transfer is free from aliasing, compression artifacts and noise reduction.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is subtler than one might expect, but it supports the director's intentions. The soundtrack is nicely mixed and balances dialogue, effects and score effectively. Dialogue is crisp and clean, whether presented from the front or rear speakers, and ambient effects often waft through the surround speakers. During the film's few action beats, effects are boisterous and supported by a decent LFE, and the track's range is strong. The mix could be a bit more immersive and aggressive, but this is hardly a deal breaker. Also included are an English DVS 5.1 Dolby Digital track, a Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital track, a French 5.1 Dolby Digital track, and English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
In Time arrives as a "combo pack" from Fox. Included are the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and an iTunes-compatible digital copy. The discs are housed in a Blu-ray eco-case, which is wrapped in a shiny, reflective slipcover. The extras begin with The Minutes (16:35/HD), a faux-documentary about the film's dystopian society that features interviews with the characters of In Time. This piece presents a somewhat interesting back-story for the time-as-currency economy, though some interviews with other parties would have added to the production. Also included are some deleted and extended scenes (12:52/HD), the film's theatrical trailer (2:23/HD) and some bonus previews.
In Time presents an interesting concept: humans in 2161 have stopped aging past 25 and use minutes of life as currency. This science-fiction thriller, from director Andrew Niccol, sees stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried fighting for the oppressed that can barely afford to survive, but it does not quite get past its slick, dystopian surface. Though not without pacing and story issues, In Time is consistently entertaining. Recommended.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.