Set in an unspecified future, In Time owes as much to The Marx-Engels Reader as Bonnie and Clyde.
Time is money: Everyone is genetically engineered to stop aging at 25 in the latest by writer-director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, Lord of War); after that, people will live for only one more year unless they can gain access to more hours, days, weeks, etc. A cup of coffee costs four minutes, lunch at an upscale restaurant eight-and-a-half weeks. The distribution of wealth is about as lopsided as it is today, with the richest having at least a century remaining and the poorest surviving minute to minute. Each individual’s value is imprinted on the forearm as a clock, a string of 13 neon-green digits that suggests a cross between a concentration camp tattoo and a rave glow stick.
A child of the ghetto, Will (Justin Timberlake), wrongly accused in a prosperous man’s death, sees his mother (Olivia Wilde) die—“time out”—in his arms and then vows to destroy the grossly inequitable system. Hearing Timberlake refer to Wilde, an actress three years his junior, as “Mom” is one of the film’s more perverse and savvy touches, a wry comment on the demands made of women, especially those trying to stay employable in Hollywood, to stay eternally young. “These are confusing times: Is she my daughter, my sister, my mother, or my wife?” Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), a tycoon worth eons, says to Will at a casino table, referring to the Anna Karina look-alike by his side. The sleekly bobbed beauty is, in fact, Philippe’s child Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), whom Will kidnaps and who needs little convincing to join his mission to redistribute the hours.
A pleasing, often rousing movie for the 99 percent, In Time is not without flaws. The jokiness of substituting “time” for “money”—“You must come from time,” Philippe says to Will—wears thin after its millionth iteration. One pursuer too many after Will, including a rough British dandy whose henchmen look like they’re about to audition for Fosse, threatens to demand too many of our minutes. But Timberlake and Seyfried make a foxy, well-matched duo: He proves, as he did in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, his agility in dystopic thrillers, and she demonstrates that her alarming Margaret Keane peepers serve her better as a class insurrectionist than as the dewy ingénue in roles past. (Their felicitous pairing also helps eradicate memories of the botched Timberlake–Mila Kunis match-up in Friends With Benefits). It seems that Niccol also had Marx in mind when casting his leads: “from each according to his ability.”