Movie review in the Friday, Oct. 28 Oregonian....
"In Time" is exactly the sort of unsubtle, high-concept slice of sci-fi "social commentary" that would have starred Charlton Heston in the early '70s. I mean this as a compliment.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol returns to "Gattaca" and "Truman Show" territory here -- making a slick-looking movie that leads with a big fat "Twilight Zone"-style metaphor and doesn't really sweat logical detail. Here, Niccol takes the notion that "time is money" and twists it into a very literal, earnest riff on economic disparity.
He imagines a world where people are born with glowing clocks on their arms that start counting down to zero at age 25. Adding time to your arm-counter prolongs your life; if it runs out, your heart stops. The problem is that time also happens to be the global currency -- you're paid in units of time, you buy things with units of time. (A cup of coffee, for example, costs 4 minutes.)
In the ghetto, the poor scramble with a few hours or minutes left on their arms. In the highest reaches of society, people live millions of years. Niccol throws the disparity into stark relief by trailing a poor outlaw (Justin Timberlake) through the social strata of this world. Timberlake woos an heiress (Amanda Seyfried) and eludes a "Timekeeper" cop (Cillian Murphy). The "Occupy" movement will find much to like in the film's distrust of a rigged system that its winners defend as "Darwinian."
"In Time" is about as subtle as a foghorn, and if you're the sort of person who asks a lot of rational questions of your genre entertainment (e.g., "Why isn't time-theft more rampant?" or "How would anyone agree to this horrifying financial system in the first place?"), this flick might drive you nuts. But to my thinking, the grand simplicity of the metaphor is a big part of "In Time"'s oddly retro sci-fi charm. Niccol is practicing the old-school craft of making a barn-broad alternate-reality that forces you to think about the way we all consensually agree to participate in systems -- even when those systems are hopelessly screwed up.
(109 min., rated PG-13) Grade: B
'In Time' (The Oregonian, Friday, Oct. 28. 2011)