It’s been six years since Andrew Niccol seated himself in a director’s chair; after the powerful Gattaca (1997), misfire S1m0ne (2002), and sleeper Lord of War (2005), the inventive writer is headed back to the big screen with another original sci-fi concept, In Time. A couple trailers have already dropped; this sizzle reel does a good job introducing the heady premise without giving away exactly where the story will go (I hope).
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The biggest reason I’m pulling for the film is Andrew Niccol’s name. In a market full of adaptations, remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels, and any combination of those categories, Niccol remains committed to telling original stories through the medium of film. Both Gattaca and The Truman Show had all the qualities of great literature, yet video was an absolutely integral element of their storytelling. Barring Sucker Punch (haven’t seen it), the last time Hollywood offered a completely original blockbuster like this was Inception, and I welcome any attempts to make it the rule and no longer the exception.
The Brave New World-esque universe he’s created here is intriguing, and the concept of a world where every action you take temporarily staves off death shows he’s exploring weighty themes through speculative fiction, not just “ooh shiny future stuff!” sci-fi. It appears Niccol’s taken a far more action-oriented approach than his earlier films, so it’ll be interesting to see how well he does. He’s recruited cinematographer and longtime Coen brothers collaborator Roger Deakins, and most of the action shots appear wide and/or steady, so I’m not worried about the kind of shaky-cam anarchy common to untested action directors (I’m looking at you, Marc Forster).
I think Justin Timberlake has become a capable comedic performer, but I’m still not entirely sold on him in a role like this. Romantic interest Amanda Seyfried has proven herself wooden time and again, but here, it kind of works for her character… at least at the beginning of her arc. Though the supporting cast (Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Matthew Bomer, Johnny Galecki, and Olivia Wilde) all look solid, the whole thing will hinge on these two lead performances, so they’d better be a bit more compelling than they seem in this footage.
My main concern, however, is where Niccol may be going with the story. With an interesting concept like this, it will be sorely disappointing if it devolves into a mere “the rich have too much wealth–spread the wealth around!” screed, as the trailer suggests. I’m holding out hope that there’s more to it than that and one of the most exorbitantly rich industries on earth doesn’t end up lecturing me about evil rich bankers for two hours.
Hopefully Niccol will put my fears to rest and deliver an engrossing, cerebral thriller; we’ll find out when In Time opens October 28th.