It seems as though, with the advent of 2012, the collective world of pop culture has become more obsessed with the concept of time. With films like Melancholia and songs like Britney Spears' "Till The World Ends," so much is centered around an imminent demise. Andrew Niccol, known for writing films with a futuristic edge (Gattaca, The Truman Show, and Simone), plays up this notion of our preoccupation with the temporal in the script for In Time.
Starring pop music's former prince, Justin Timberlake, as Will Salas, In Time illustrates a world divided into time zones numbered from one to twelve. The higher the zone, the less time people have to live. Every human is endowed with a clock from the moment he or she turns 25 years old that gives him or her one year to live. From that point onward, you have to work to earn additional seconds, hours, and minutes in order to stay alive--the tradeoff being that you will remain the way you look at 25 for the rest of your life. Those who live in the higher zones that are dubbed the ghettoes are forced to live from day to day, earning meager amounts of additional time by working menial jobs.
New Greenwich is a time zone that the denizens of poverty-stricken Dayton can only dream about. It is a place where people have decades, even centuries, of time. One night at a bar with his friend, Borel (Johnny Bolecki), Will notices a man with an inordinate amount of time left on his clock--an entire century as a matter of fact--immediately making him stand out among the crowd. The man, who we later learn is named Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), hails from the aforementioned promised land and is zeroed in on by a band of time thieves led by Fortis (Alex Pettyfer). While everyone else flees the scene, Will stays back to lurk in the shadows so that he can come to Henry's rescue.
It is through this happenstance that Henry decides to "clock out," a.k.a. die, giving all of his time to Will as an over the top thank you for his generosity. Plus, he was just over the whole "living forever" scene. Knowing that New Greenwich is the only place that Will's excess of time can go unnoticed, he heads out of zone 12 almost instantly. With no one to say goodbye to except Borel (his 50 year old mother, played by the impossibly youthful looking Olivia Wilde, died in his arms before he could give her more time), Will sets out to "take them for everything they've got." And so the story shifts into an alternate version of Robin Hood, wherein Will vows to steal time from the "rich" who don't need it.
Very much a mirror of our own sociopolitical foibles, Will learns that everything about human existence is rigged. Society is designed specifically for the poor to stay poor and the rich to stay rich, reiterating a much repeated theme, "For a few to be immortal, many must die." Part of maintaining the system as it is, Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, thank fuck he's back), a "timekeeper" (which is really just a cop who prevents people from taking too much time out of one zone and into another), pursues Will vehemently until he finds him at a party thrown by one of the most affluent men in New Greenwich, Philippe Weis (Mad Men's Vincent Kartheiser). It is then that Will takes Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), Philippe's daughter, hostage (though, up until that second, they were getting along quite famously).
Soon, the two are off on a Bonnie and Clyde type of rampage, stealing time from banks and doling it out to the people who live in the ghetto. All the while, Raymond and Philippe, are, for different reasons, adamant that the system cannot be changed, asserting that there is not enough resources for everyone to live as long as the wealthy. But that doesn't stop Will and Sylvia from continuing their quest. Because to accept things as they are, in this reality and in In Time's, is to accept corruption and injustice. So yeah, movies set in the future sure have come a long way since Back to the Future. And, all I can say is, this is one dystopic film worth seeing. JT has definitely stepped up his game from Friends With Benefits.