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The Big Screen: 'In Time' is worth yours

Posted: November 2, 2011 - 11:01pm

My parents called him, “The Jerk”. He was a regular companion of sorts on our long weekend drives from out-the-road up to Eaglecrest. It didn’t seem to matter when we left our house, either. At some point during the drive, my mom or dad would glance at the rear view mirror and… “Here he comes!”

The Jerk was always easily spotted well before he actually passed us on Egan Drive (which he always did). His car was impossible to miss as he weaved wildly in and out of traffic. Usually all we did was shoot him disapproving looks that he never saw as he whizzed by our mini-van. Once, though, I remember my old man spotting The Jerk coming, smiling, and then matching the speed of the car next to us. If it is possible for a car to look angry, The Jerk’s looked outraged when it arrived behind our moving (going the speed limit) blockade.

What never ceased to amaze me was that no matter when The Jerk managed to get around us and zoom ahead toward the slopes, we’d get to the parking lot just about the same time he did. Equally amazing, I suppose, was The Jerk’s incessant obsession with being in a hurry, apparently always on the verge of being out of time.

It isn’t exactly a phenomenon. Don’t we all, pretty much at all times, feel like we don’t have enough time? We get angry when a webpage takes an extra ten seconds to load. We act like someone is talking trash about our mother if they dare to stand still on the escalator instead of speed-walking up it.

In writer/director Andrew Niccol’s “In Time”, time is, literally, money.

First the good news: you stop aging at 25. Nice, right? Now the bad news: you only live for a year after that 25th birthday. Your time, your life’s clock, counts down toward zero continuously on your forearm. When the clock hits zero, you “time out.” Game over. The second piece of good news, for some, is that you can accrue more time. You go to work, you get paid in time. For the rich, reaching virtual immortal status is achievable. For the non-rich, not so much.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) isn’t rich. He has made it to 28, but it’s day to day (i.e. paycheck to paycheck). He works hard and he and his mom (Olivia Wilde) seem happy enough. Still, when Will’s mom makes a payment on their home loan, she is left with only an hour and a half. No biggie, she’s going to meet Will, he’ll give her some of his time and they’ll celebrate her 50th birthday. Life is good.

Or at least it is until she hops on the bus to go meet her son and the driver says, “Two hours.” The price has gone up. “It’s a two hour walk” to where she’s meeting her son, she tells the driver. He shrugs. “You better run.” She does. Will, waiting for her at the bus stop, puts it together when she isn’t on the bus and starts to run in her direction, too. Mom’s clock hits zero a split second before her son can give her more time. I’ll admit it: I had tears in my eyes 15 minutes into a Justin Timberlake flick.

Niccol’s premise is, frankly, awesome. “Time is money” isn’t just something people say, it is reality. It is built-in, automatic drama in every frame as Will and others never endingly have to worry about “timing out.” Niccol wisely adds a stranger (Matt Bomer) to the mix, a stranger with over a century of time counting down on his forearm. He wanders into Will’s life, gifts him all of that time, and then times himself out.

Will then makes his way out of the ghetto and into the land of the rich (a clever twist on “time zones”) and there are eventually cops (“time-keepers”) chasing him, a girl (Amanda Seyfried) with him, and a deeper message in there somewhere.

It ain’t perfect. There are a couple scenes with Timberlake and Seyfried by themselves where the dialogue is so terrible it’s a testament to the actors that they get through it with straight faces. The main time-keeper (Cillian Murphy) pursuing Timberlake is hell-bent on keeping the system in place, but I don’t think even he could tell you why. Seyfried’s wig (I’m assuming it’s a wig)… You just need to see it to understand.

“In Time” is worth your time, though. The premise is good enough, the cast likeable enough, that the movie’s flaws are forgivable. No need to be a jerk on the way to the theater — just leave a little earlier and enjoy the drive!

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