Writer and sometimes-director Andrew Niccol fixates on the future and doesn’t offer a sunny outlook, whether it’s in Gattaca, The Truman Show, or S1m0ne. It should come as no surprise, then, that In Time is yet another trip into the dystopian world of tomorrow, where lifespan has replaced money as the commodity of choice, and people stop aging when they reach 25. If they’re lucky—or well-off—they can earn or exchange days, weeks, months, and even years, thereby extending their time on earth.
Yes, this is a story of haves and have-nots. Justin Timberlake plays one of the latter, who ekes out an existence from day to day until he chances to meet—
—a wealthy man who feels he’s lived too long, and transfers more than a century’s worth of life to his new acquaintance. This harvest of “time” enables Timberlake to buy his way out of the ghetto and visit the wealthy part of town to see how the other half lives. It’s there that he meets time-mogul (and hoarder) Vincent Kartheiser and his beautiful daughter, Amanda Seyfried, who has no idea how difficult life is for poor buggers like Timberlake.
The concept is mildly interesting at first—even the cops are called timekeepers—but the novelty wears off pretty fast, and In Time becomes a dreary exercise in which the central metaphor is both obvious and heavy-handed. (Rich people exploit the poor, you see.) The characters are one-dimensional, leaving the actors with no place to go.
Future worlds can be fascinating, funny, or thought-provoking. This film is none of the above.