In Time is out of line from the get-go, when Justin Timberlake gazes at the equally young and sexy Olivia Wilde and says: "Hi, Mom." Neither looks a day over 25, which makes sense according to Andrew Niccol's flailing screenplay, in which aging ends at that point. The movie could've ended then and I wouldn't mind.
Usually a dependable screenwriter, Niccol (The Truman Show, Lord of War) presents the stupidest sci-fi premise in recent memory. Time is literally money in this not-too-distant future, earned by working lousy jobs, and collected in an LED clock imbedded on forearms. Time can be transferred from one person to another through what appears to be a fraternity handshake with a gurgling sound effect.
Timberlake plays Will Salas, living from paycheck to paycheck or whatever you'd call those weekly barcode scannings. Will's Mom loves him enough to pass along a few of her dwindling hours so he can buy breakfast. You can imagine how happy Will is when a stranger (Matt Bomer) rolls over a year to his forearm. Why he doesn't run straight to Mom and give her a few months is a mystery.
Speaking of running, Timberlake does a lot of that in this movie. He looks like someone who just learned that particular exercise in P.E. class. Barely more convincing is Timberlake's handling of firearms, or the way he slides off his sunglasses to reveal a determined, angry glare underneath. We've finally discovered something the pop icon can't do well, and shouldn't try again.
Will's being chased by a nasty "timekeeper" named Ray Leon (Cillian Murphy), whose job is tracking down working stiffs with unusually large forearm accounts, like Will. Here, Niccol blows his chance for real-life allegory, since the cost of living for time-poor people is continually raised in order to make them die sooner, preventing overpopulation. What could be a future political platform plank becomes just another red herring.
There's always a woman in such dire situations. This time it's Amanda Seyfried as Sylvia Weis, the rebellious, privileged daughter of an industrialist. Timberlake and Seyfried show little interest in each other, no matter how many embraces the script calls for. In the third act, Niccol sets up Will and Sylvia as Robin Hoods of time, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. It's as if the movie rebooted itself with previously unseen humor, after taking itself far too seriously before.
In Time doesn't even make it interesting when characters are "timed out." They simply spasm and collapse when the clock hits zero. Why not use CGI to show them immediately aging to their actual years? Some folks have lived more than a century, so that might be cool. Niccol fashioned an uninspired and downright dull sci-fi gimmick and doesn't even explain how it happened.
All I need to know is: What fraternity handshake can I use to get my 109 minutes back?
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365.