Film Review: In Time (2011)

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In Time is a retro-futuristic action movie written and directed by Andrew Niccol. One of my all time (heh) favourite science fiction films is Gattaca, but I didn’t realise it was the same director! I can’t believe I missed that the first time around. Andrew Niccol also directed The Host, which I quite enjoyed too (and it prompted me to read the book!).

In the same vein as Gattaca and The Host, In Time has a strong emphasis on science fiction and romance which to me is a perfect combination! And the cinematography is just wonderful. Also the casting is really good, too!

In Time follows a society that has fallen prey to ‘immortality capitalism’. Citizens are genetically engineered to have count-down clocks begin when they hit twenty five. Everyone is the same age from then on, and lifespans are determined by wealth. Some have been twenty-five for centuries. Others are only twenty-five for a year before their debt racks up and they run out of time. It’s so bad that in the opening scene, Will Salas and his friend step over a body of someone who ran out of time on their way to work.

That night, Will meets a rich man named Henry Hamilton at the pub. He’s hiding something and seems inclined to get into trouble. Will saves him from the ‘minute men’ i.e. gangsters who run around stealing and extorting time from those who can’t protect or defend themselves. Will spends the night with him and learns that the entire system is far worse than he could have imagined. But when he wakes up, he has a century to live and Henry has let his own time run out.

Now wealthier beyond imagining, Will gifts his best friend ten years before going to meet his mother. Unfortunately, his mother’s time runs out before she’s able to reach him and Will’s entire life is upended in seconds. Her death is the catalyst for him to leave his time zone and drive to New Greenwich, a zone filled with those who can live forever off the time they’ve stolen from Will’s district. It’s in New Greenwich that he meets Philippe Weis, one of the richest men in the time zone. Weis has a million years. Will gambles against him and wins a hundred years. And it’s during the game that he meets Sylvia, Weis’ daughter.

At the same time, the Timekeepers are hunting Will down, suspecting him Henry Hamilton and taking his years. The head Timekeeper has a hunger to capture Will and tracks him down with increasing determination and soon Will, Sylvia, Weis and the Timekeeper’s timelines are all intertwined, and no one’s time is guaranteed.

I really liked how this film became something of a futuristic Robin Hood. The characters were consistent about their goals and aims throughout – wanting to return years to those who had none. The romance between Will and Sylvia was cute and shippable. There’s also a very strong sense of community amongst the district, which I liked. As soon as those in the district have extra time, they lend it to those who are running out. Everyone takes some and then happily passes the hours around (other than the greedy minute men, that is). Will’s friends and neighbours are definitely the heart and soul of the story – other than Will and Sylvia themselves.

While I wouldn’t say In Time had the same impact on me that Gattaca had, I did very much enjoy it and it’s made me curious to check out another of Niccol’s films: Anon. For those who like romantic science fiction films that examine inequality, this is definitely a film worth watching!

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