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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

In Time

Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried come from a future where human beings no longer mature physically beyond the age of 25 years.
By Tom Glasson
October 31, 2011
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In Time

Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried come from a future where human beings no longer mature physically beyond the age of 25 years.
By Tom Glasson
October 31, 2011
  shares

In Time offers up one of the most fascinating and original movie premises in recent memory: It chronicles a future in which human beings no longer mature physically beyond the age of 25 years, their bodies forever frozen in time while their minds continue to develop. The promise of eternal youth, however, is far from assured, since the moment you come of age your life is governed by time, marked for death, as it were, by a glowing, neon-green countdown tattooed onto your forearm. Time has, quite literally, become the new currency of this future: it's earned, spent, stolen, donated or — for the lucky few — inherited. Those with bountiful stores effectively become immortal, while the poor simply hope to survive from one day to the next.

If you're thinking it all sounds like a brutally inequitable system ripe for an Occupy Time Street kind of uprising, then you've cleverly spotted the subtle message director Andrew Niccol has attempted to slam into your brain with a sledgehammer. As far as Niccol's concerned: the financial system (sorry, time system) is unfair and in need of an overhaul. The majority of people, let's call them 'the 99%', have next to nothing, while the wealthy have more than they could ever need. It's all so cruel and unnecessary. Somebody really should do something — isn't that right, actor Justin Timberlake?

Arise our hero: factory worker and all-round nice guy Will Salas (Timberlake). When fate drops a century of time into his otherwise empty hands, Salas seizes upon the opportunity to escape the desperation of the ghettos and live the high life amongst the time-wealthy elite of New Greenwich — an exclusive district separated by numerous 'time zones' for which the toll to cross is more time than the poor could ever afford. Once there he quickly catches the eye of epoch-heiress Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) and all seems well until 'Timekeeper' police officers (led by Cillian Murphy) spoil the show and take Salas into custody under the misapprehension he stole the time that was gifted him. From that moment forth In Time feels like one long, extended chase sequence separated by awkward flirting as Will and Sylvia embark upon a Bonnie and Clyde-meets-Robin Hood crime spree to redistribute the wealth to the people.

The heavy-handed nature of both plot and script comes as a huge surprise to fans of Niccol, whose previous works, like Gattaca and S1mOne, were subtle and captivating philosophical musings on the increasing role science plays in our lives. Perhaps most frustrating of all is the manner by which In Time consistently glosses over or even entirely ignores the more fascinating elements of the world it's created. Who discovered the means by which humans could cheat death? Why was everyone subjected to it and why on Earth did they think neon-green digits glowing unceasingly in our arms would be anything short of maddening?

The film, of course, is not without its redeeming features. The concept alone makes it almost worthwhile, and Niccol teases us with some wonderfully poignant moments, compelling characters and unsettling abstractions.

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