Friday, January 13, 2012

MA$$ACRE: In Time (2011)



In Time really wants to be a clever sci-fi movie - really. But much like a kid who tries really hard in school and just keeps on failing, this movie is a depressing reminder that ambition can't always make up for brainpower that just isn't there. I imagine the brainstorming session for this film went something like this: "You know that saying 'time is money,' what if, wait wait, what if, time was money, like for real! Whooooa." Thus, we get a futuristic society where everyone is allocated 25 years of life, after which they're forced to work to earn additional days which are kept track of on their arms through a magic clock tattoo. If you can earn enough time, you'll effectively be immortal, but anyone who runs out of time dies on the spot. (Seems like the mortuary arts would be a pretty lucrative profession.)

Justin Timberlake plays Will Salas, a young man living literally day-to-day in the poverty-stricken areas of an unnamed future city. People in the slums routinely come dangerously close to having their clocks run out, especially since they're burning time to buy material goods on top of letting it run out naturally. What a nightmare: a world where it's twice as easy to drink yourself to death. When an incredibly wealthy man shows up in the slums and flashes his clock with reckless abandon, young Will dutifully helps him escape from some local thugs and finds out that the guy actually wants to die. Living for so long apparently gets boring, and the stranger slips Will all his remaining time before throwing himself off a bridge.

Now ridiculously wealthy, Will heads into the rich center of the city, which is conveniently segregated from the slums by a series of enormous walls with toll booths to keep the poor out. Among the 1%, Will meets Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a snobbish aristocrat at a luxurious party. She's disaffected with her life, and after being kidnapped by Will and shown the dirtier side of life on the streets she eventually agrees to help him bring the system down.

The hallmark of good science fiction is that it's able to take a relatively simple idea and extrapolate a lot from it. It's not necessarily the internal logic or scientific accuracy of the initial seed that are terribly important, but the way in which the consequences are followed through to the end. With such a one-dimensional premise, In Time is more or less bound to fail. Other than the fact that running out of time means instant death for a person, the metaphor is so thin that we might as well be seeing a future society divided strictly by socioeconomic class. While on the surface it might seem relevant to the current economic climate, the portrayal of rich and poor are too extreme and the solutions offered too simple. Unsurprisingly, redistribution of wealth is the solution that the film falls back upon. It's the easy way out, and it's taken without regard to any of the subtle consequences it entails. Sure, giving away time to everyone will ensure that the poor live longer, but (as the villain says) it'll also completely cripple the economy. The ideas here don't extend beyond the grasp of something you'd see in a poorly written freshman term paper on Marxism. Only here, we get a bunch of bad puns to boot. I give this paper a D. With every film he directs, Andrew Niccol adds another data point which supports the hypothesis that Gattaca was just a fluke.

3.5 / 10 = Skip it

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