Carrying on a grand, campy tradition of dystopic sci-fi movies, In Time has come to DVD and Blu-ray this month from 20th Century Fox. The movie stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, and as the sticker on the slipcover proclaims, you can now “Watch it Anytime, Anyplace!”
The movie starts off with a great gimmick that tragically overextends itself and becomes boring, the same issue that similar futuristic sci-fi from the ‘70s and ‘80s like Logan’s Run and Omega Man tend to suffer from. Justin Timberlake’s character, Will Salas, hails from the ghetto of Dayton, one of the lesser “time zones” in a future reality where all aspects of day-to-day life are measured according to modifiable digital readouts on each person’s forearm showing how much longer that person has left to live. Time is used as currency, and can be earned, traded, gambled, awarded, or stolen – wealthy people hoard thousands of years in time vaults, while members of the working class must anxiously subsist on only a few hours or days at a time. Also, everyone stops aging at 25, which is a great excuse to make every single person in the movie be hot and sexy.
Will’s life is thrown into upheaval one night when he encounters a weird rich guy in a bar who gifts his last remaining century to Will, then kills himself by deliberately “tapping out” his own time clock. Finding himself suddenly on the lamb from fascist “timekeepers,” Will makes a half-assed attempt to go into hiding, and ends up spontaneously kidnapping a wealthy heiress named Sylvia Weis (Seyfried), whose multibillionaire father runs the world’s largest network of time banks. Sylvia is standoffish at first, but she soon succumbs to Will’s roguish charms, and they team up to become sexy vigilante bank robbers together, intent on stealing and redistributing enough time to collapse the time market and end social stratification forever.
The first half hour is fun and ridiculous, with Timberlake’s character whimsically buying expensive cars and infiltrating upscale casinos and private parties so he can humiliate people at cards and try to nail their daughters. After that, the movie becomes mired in half-baked class politics and an overdrawn romantic subplot, which would be great if those elements were better conceived, or if the transition were smoother and better timed (pun intended). As it stands, Timberlake’s motivational shift happens so abruptly that it feels arbitrary, which makes it hard to keep identifying with him, and the meandering plot just makes it worse – Will and Sylvia are fugitives from the law, they keep robbing time banks, and the cops are constantly on their tail. That’s it, for about 70 minutes.
The Blu-ray is pretty dry, but it does include a really weird mockumentary short called The Minutes, which cuts together a series of fake interviews with the film’s characters and footage of an anonymous scientist fearfully explaining the origins of the film’s DNA modification technology. Kinda weird, but still less stupid than those self-congratulatory behind-the-scenes documentaries they’re always putting on these things. Also, if you pause the movie, the status bar displays as a time clock. Snerk.
What’s most disappointing about In Time is that it didn’t have to be so lackluster – the basic premise is silly, but it could have been great if handled correctly, especially taking in stride the ludicrous, punning wordplay and James Bond absurdity of its fleeting opening sequences. Unfortunately, its choice to transition into aimless social commentary crashes its momentum, making it both less entertaining, and less substantive than it could have been otherwise.