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Review: In Time is out of sync

November 04, 2011 14:53 IST

Preeti Arora feels the narrative of In Time never really develops into anything beyond what has already been established in the first 15 minutes.

With a plot that would be completely at home among the sci-fi novels of Isaac Asimov and Philip K Dick, In Time is set against a futuristic society of Darwinian capitalism, where time is--literally -- money, and those who know how to earn it are the ones who live forever.


Part science fiction, part treatise on antagonistic class conflicts, part love story and part just plain old cinematic soup, In Time is one confused film and will leave serious sci-fi enthusiasts highly disappointed.

Director Andrew Niccol, whose oeuvre includes scripting the hugely successful films Terminal and The Truman Show, retains the theme of the protagonist being a naive simpleton turned rebellious conspiracy theorist. His sole desire now is to live an uncomplicated life in an era where the human being has been genetically engineered to stop growing beyond the age of 25.

Time is the only currency. Earn it, hoard it, invest it carefully and you might just succeed in being immortal. A few elite people are born to parents who have hoarded millions of years. For the rest, it's a day-to-day survival of borrowing, scrimping, scrounging, loan repayments, and high interest rates -- the rigmarole of daily life.

It's a cliched narrative about the rich planning for the next four generations and the poor aiming for a full meal on Saturday night. A cup of coffee costs them four minutes of their life.

The futuristic police are called 'Timekeepers' and any attempts to steal time are dealt with in a harsh and severe manner. Cillian Murphy plays the 'Time Keeper' who chases Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) relentlessly through the 'time zones' hoping to nail him for possessing unwarranted time. Of course, our hero is really just being framed and the creases are more or less ironed out by the end of the film.

Justin Timberlake delivers a spirited and mature performance, stepping further and further away from his pop icon image, adding another feather in his cap after acclaimed performances in The Social Network and, going further back, Edison.

Amanda Seyfried is a prop, but a charming one, while Cillian Murphy, known for playing the Scarecrow in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, is perfect for his role, displaying an air of quiet sincerity as the Timekeeper Raymond Leon.

Johnny Galecki (of The Big Bang Theory fame) plays Timberlake's best friend Borel, a redundant character that is entirely wasted on a talented actor like Galecki.

What disappoints isn't the acting or the story; it's that the narrative never really develops into anything beyond what has already been established in the first fifteen minutes. Niccol, who also made the much-admired Gattaca, falls short when it comes to story telling and falls prey to the worst enemy of any film: predictability.

A sci-fi flick has immense scope to play around with special effects, but In Time doesn't come close to having any sort of SFX prowess. That it doesn't, can't be held against the film, but that it tries half-heartedly, can, what with depicting the future as nothing more than shiny glass-walled buildings.

While no Bollywood director would have the gall to remake a film such as Inception or The Blade Runner, it's easy to imagine everyone from Abbas Mustan to Sanjay Gadhvi vying to recreate In Time on our home screens with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead.

Rediff Rating:

Preeti Arora in Mumbai