The minds behind 'In Time' couldn't have known that class warfare proponents, from bedraggled Occupy Wall Street types to a President eager to alienate those sharing his tax bracket, would be all the rage when the film hit theaters.
The science fiction thriller adds a Marxist polish to a tale owing plenty to both 'Logan's Run' and 'Bonnie and Clyde.' And while the premise teases the kind of dystopian future seen in sci-fi classics like 'Blade Runner,''In Time' ends up with precious little to share beyond its pretty leads.
Justin Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a blue-collar type in an alternative America where people only live to be 25. After that, you have to earn every second of your existence. Time is the coin of this realm, and a person's wealth status is displayed in green glowing digits on their forearm. Thus, folks like Will literally live paycheck to paycheck, while the rich exist in walled-off communities where they're guaranteed immortality.
Will's life changes when a "rich" stranger transfers a hundred years of time to him out of the blue. That exchange draws the attention of both a local gangster ('I Am Number Four''s Alex Pettyfer) and a professional "Time Hunter" (Cillian Murphy). Our buff hero ends up finding common ground with a socialite's daughter named Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), and after a few awkward moments they decide to redistribute income, Robin Hood style.
"Is it stealing if it's already been stolen?" Will says.
'In Time' pays lip service to living life to the fullest, but it would need far richer characters to hammer that point home. Instead, we get endless running, Marxist sound bites ("there's more than enough") and precious little chemistry between our leads. It's hard to light a flame when you're forced to recite lines like this:
Sylvia: "You saved my life."
Sylvia: "Now, and every day since I met you."
Timberlake continues to prove he deserves a big screen career, but the role of Will Salas does him few favors. The screenplay just lies there as if its own life clock expired moments before the film began. Seyfried avoids the spoiled, rich brat archetype but does little else to elevate the material. She does earn points for running in some very punishing heels.
There's a wonderful, pitch-black story poking around the edges of 'In Time,' and a few snippets of conversation hint at the film it might have been.
"Your mind can be spent, even if your body's not," one aged millionaire says, a rebuke to anyone who ever dreamed of immortality.
The film's rich versus poor grudge match plays out in crude fashion, like a viral video which packs fury but little common sense. Apparently, in this future realm, the rich don't have to work hard to make their millions worth of time credits. What's not addressed is exactly how the rich steal from the poor. We live in a society where upward mobility is the true coin of the realm, but the culture on screen here won't allow a workaday shlub to change his social status. Why? It's one of countless questions left unanswered by a maddeningly vague story.
Perhaps the film's silliest moment comes with an homage to Sylvester Stallone's arm wrestling epic 'Over the Top.' It's never a good sign when a film tips its cap to a clunker.
'In Time' delivers a bravura concept even right-of-center audiences can admire. Time is given, stolen and earned, and after a while you stop caring how much time is left on our hero's forearm odometer.