In Time (2011)

Rated PG-13. Our Ratings: V -4; L -5 ; S/N -1. Running time: 1 hour 49 min.

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
and come to their end without hope.
Job 7:6

And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?
Matt. 6:27

A thriller with some food for thought.

© 2011 A Regency Enterprises release

Director/writer Andrew Niccol’s film is most timely, given all the debate among politicians and cable commentators about the huge gap between the 1% wealthy class and the rest of us. Set in the near fu ture when the human body has been genetically engineered to live “naturally” for just one more year after a person reaches the age of 25, the film will remind science fiction of fans of Logan’s Run. In both dysatopia stories our hero has reached the age of termination and strives to stay alive beyond that point.

A glowing digital clock embedded in the skin of people’s left arm gives the exact amount of time left before their bodies stop functioning. Time is not just money, as the old saying goes, it is life. Transactions are made by clasping hands so that the wrist clocks meet, the person with the upper hand controlling the transaction. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a resident of the ghetto known as Dayton, has prolonged his life through working in a factory and gambling, earning just enough time to keep death at bay a few minutes and hours at a time. One night at the bar where 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) flaunts his wealth (he possesses more than a century) by buying everyone a drink, Will comes to his rescue when a gang of thugs known as The Minute Men try to steal Hamilton’s time.

Inviting Hamilton to his flat, Will learns of the huge gap between the wealthy who live in luxurious Greenwhich and the poor crowded together into Dayton. There is plenty of time for everyone to live full lives, Hamilton tells him, but the greed of the rich is so great that they horde it, and thus are able to live for millenia, while the poor scrabble for a few minutes and hours of time. (In the end the poor are very much like Job, with no hope of improving their lot.) Hamilton concludes by saying that man is not meant to live forever, that there comes a time when he is ready to die.

That this was not idle talk Will discovers the next morning when he wakes up and sees that his guest is gone, with most of his wealth transferred to Will. The latter rushes out to find him. He spots hies benefactor on a bridge, but he cannot reach him before the man keels over and falls into the shallow water below. Will is dismayed not only by the his failure to save the man but also by the nearby surveilance camera that has caught the two on its hard drive. Soon the police, known as Time Keepers, are searching for him believing that he might be guilty of murder. In particular Timekeeper Raymond León (Cillian Murphy) vows to hunt Will down, thus the film becoming similar to Les Miserables, the latter becoming Inspector Javert to Will’s Jean Valjean.

Will is thrilled to be able to share some of his newfound wealth with his 55 year old mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde), who when we first saw her with Will appeared to be his lover, she still looking to be 25. However, always nearly broke, she is delayed that night after work when she discovers that the bus fare has gone up unexpectedly. This would not leave her enough time to reach her son before all of her time expires. She sprints through the streets toward their usual place of meeting in a race against time, but just as the two meet, she expires in Will’s arms.

Enraged by her unnecessary death, Will, recalling what Hamilton had told him about the unjust system, decides to take vengeance and to address the inbalance of wealth/time. Passing through the various time zones, Will discovers the price of the toll fee, in years, keeps growing as he enters an ever richer zone. At last Will encounters 90 year-old billionaire Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) in a casino in New Greenwich. He embarks on an exciting and dangerous venture that will involve both the billionaire and his jaded daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). And dogging his heels like a modern Inspector Javert Timekeeper Raymond León. Complicating matters even more is the gang of Minute Men seeking to steal Will’s new wealth for themselves.

Expect exciting chase scenes, on foot and in cars, with our heroes (Sylvia is won over by Will) literally racing against time. In most thrillers we see the numbers on a digital device attached to a bomb counting down the seconds to detonation. In this film when the numbers, imprinted on the left wrist, all read “0” there is no explosion, but the person winds up just as dead. Some critics have dissed the film because it is so similar to such films as Logan’s Run. Maybe it is, but it is still thought-provoking (and of course exciting), raising such questions as the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor, and the philosophical question concerning living forever or dying a “natural death.”

Note: Discussion questions are available with this review for those subscribing to the Visual Parables journal. The journal also includes many extras–book reviews, the use of films for church seasons, a lectionary related column, and more. Hundreds of old reviews are also available in the subscribers; section. Check out the sample issue.