If you’re the sort who starts sentences with “If time were money...”, you’ll probably like this movie. Time is money here – it’s the year 2161 and life stops at 25, unless you’re rich enough to buy more. Yes, time has becomes a currency of sorts, transferrable from one person to another. And yes, successful sci-fi thrillers have been made on flimsier premises (for instance: “This is a movie about corporate spies who steal business secrets by entering people’s dreams”).
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a factory worker from Dayton, a working-class neighbourhood where people’s time keeps running out. Quite by chance, he’s gifted 116 years by a world-weary aristocrat who “times himself out”. Unfortunately, the cops, or “time-keepers”, assume that the suicide is murder and start hunting for Salas, who’s moved to the classier part of town. There he meets Philippe Weis (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser), and relieves him of both his money and his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). Just when things couldn’t get stranger, the time-keepers turn up, Salas takes Sylvia hostage and soon they two are on the run, in a literal race against time.
The director is Andrew Niccol, whose debut film Gattaca was a more cogent sci-fi satire (he also wrote The Terminal and The Truman Show, both of which are variations on existing outside of time).
In Time is mildly gripping, and Timberlake can evidently carry a film by himself, but it also takes its ludicrous premise way too seriously. We’re repeatedly told that the rich keep time for themselves by raising the cost of living, and are expected to cheer when Salas and Sylvia become a Bonnie and Clyde-like couple, stealing time and giving it to those in need. We’d rather just watch them run from time-keeper Cillian Murphy, or play “Who’s the best-looking member of a cast that includes Amanda Seyfried, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Wilde and Matt Bomer?”. The DVD includes a couple of deleted scenes, but we wouldn’t encourage you giving up hours of your life in exchange for this.
A version of this piece appeared in Time Out Delhi.