In Time: One man’s immortality is another man’s death

Movie Review

In Time

Directed by Andrew Niccol

Starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer

2011, 115 minutes, PG-13

Time is money. In Time seems to take that quite literally. In what is a brilliant metaphor for modern day class segregation, the poor die young and the rich live forever. And a man named Will Salas (Timberlake) sets out to do something about it.

These days, when the same tired sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes are topping the box office, a new film with an original story is like a breath of fresh air. With that being the case, In Time might as well be an oxygen tank. Perhaps the most unique idea since Inception, this movie takes things a step further in that its concept is a metaphor for modern times.

In the not-too-distant future, the aging gene has been shut down, and people stop growing older at the age of 25. On their arms are clocks displaying how much time they have left to live – when that clock hits zero, that person’s life ends.

However, time is indeed the new currency, and is earned by working, and can be transferred into and out of people. Essentially, the rich can afford to have enough time to not only live long past the age of 25, but to live for centuries; they in fact seek immortality.

Meanwhile, those in poverty are desperately trying to make enough ‘time’ to stay alive for one more day.

The poor and rich are divided by time zones, and it costs a whole year of someone’s life to cross the border from one zone into the other. It seemed to me that this was a bit of commentary on how immigrant workers  are treated in the U.S.. I think it’s fair to say that it was at least a subtle attack on recent anti-immigration legislation and policies.

When a man named Henry Hamilton (Bomer), with a century on his clock, goes into a bar in an impoverished neighborhood, Salas saves his life when a gang of time-stealers attacks him. Old and tired of life, Hamilton transfers his century to Salas, who promises he won’t waste it. The local police (called timekeepers) wrongly blame Salas for Hamilton’s subsequent death, and Salas becomes a criminal suspect.

Salas crosses over into the rich neighborhood of New Greenwich, where he meets Sylvia Weis (Seyfried), the daughter of a wealthy man with millions of years on his clock. Salas is forced to take Weis with him to avoid being captured by a timekeeper (Murphy), and together, Salas and Weis hatch a scheme to defeat the wealthy and start a revolution, by stealing time from the rich and giving it to the poor.

What is immediately enticing about this film is the blatant way in which it attacks capitalism and portrays the idea of “class warfare.” Here is a system designed to keep people under control, keeping them in debt, while the few billionaires live the good life.

Ultimately, this film takes the viewer on a journey in which a plutocracy reverts back to a democracy, due to the revolutionary action of Salas and Weis.

Wonderful in how obvious they are, the real world sociopolitical parallels speak volumes. You’ve got to hand it to the director for seamlessly pairing in-your-face progressive ideas with the subtleties of this toned-down style of sci-fi.

With the well-crafted message behind the film being its driving force, the pacing and short but sufficient plot points were the pedals that pushed it forward. One head-scratcher, on the other hand, was the dialogue. It was at times deep and provocative (like Hamilton discussing the rising cost of living), and at other times flat and bland (particularly during exchanges between Salas and Weis, who had decent chemistry regardless).

Another hiccup in the writing process was failing to explain the science behind its science fiction, or how payphones and old cars can co-exist with the supposedly futuristic technology of bioengineering. But it’s a minor grievance; ultimately, the film leaves that for the viewer to speculate on, and focuses instead on the core of the story.

Though one might wish its thought-provoking outline could be taken a few steps further, there is certainly enough here for everyone: great chase scenes (coupled with captivating camerawork) for the action-hungry, and a strong message for those who want more substance.

Though it’s the underdog of films currently in theatres, In Time is not one to be overlooked. There are eye-opening lessons here for the best of us, and, as the economy is in continuous jeopardy and Big Business seems like it may last forever, the words of Salas should be taken to heart now more than ever: “No one should be immortal, if even one person has to die.”

Photo: From In Time official movie website 



Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page. As a writer, he has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have also appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the 2010 BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Illinois and frequently visits his home state of New Jersey. He likes cats, red wine, books, music, and nature. In his spare time, he is writing a novel and working on art.