Over the span of two decades, New Zealand-born filmmaker Andrew Niccol had only made three movies (1997's GATTACA, 2002's S1m0ne, and 2005's LORD OF WAR) in his directing career, and also responsible of writing the screenplay for THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998). Still his short span of work are nothing short of technical brilliance and often inspired with fascinating ideas. No doubt Niccol is one of the most gifted visionary directors of our time. Six years after his long hiatus since LORD OF WAR, it's finally good to see him return to sci-fi genre once again. The result is IN TIME, a fascinating genre-bending thriller that blessed with a brilliant setup: A future where the wealthy ones live forever and the working-class ordinary citizens are struggle to survive within day by day in a ghetto "time zone". Instead of money, time becomes the currency as human being are only given 25 years of lifespan. Once that age have reached, they will be "shut" down like a machine.
The movie focuses on Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a 28-year-old ordinary being who is currently three years past his original expiration date while her mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde) has just celebrated her fiftieth birthday. Like most working-class people, Will has been struggling to make ends meet at low-paying, blue-collar jobs where the cost of living is frequently rises to an alarming rate. But his miserable life is about to change when he encounters a depressed guy named Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) at a bar who possesses a lifespan with over a century on his arm. He has unexpectedly saves his life from some local thugs, lead by Fortis (Alex Pettyfer). They manage to escape, and retreats to an abandoned building. As Will is fallen asleep, Henry decides to give him all his century-worth of lifespan and leaves himself a couple minutes of his time. The following morning, he goes on sitting on a bridge waiting to clock out. Will tries to save him but it's too late and Henry's "suicide" is subsequently caught on surveillance videos.
Henry's "suicide" has no doubt become a major interest to a local authorities, lead by Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), a timekeeper who believes Will has killed the man and stole his time.
In the meantime, Will has just lost his mother in a night they suppose to meet each other at a bus stop and he has no one left except a great amount of time engraved in his arm. With such finances at his disposal, he travels off to New Greenwich, the most luxurious place of all time zones, and subsequently get to know to a wealthy time banker, Philippe (Vincent Kartheiser). At the same time, he also falls in love with his beautiful spoiled daughter, Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried).
When Raymond manages to track Will down at New Greenwich, Will kidnaps Sylvia and both of them end up as fugitives-on-the-run when they pull off a heist to steal all the time device from Philippe's bank vault to distribute to all the struggling working-class people.
On paper, IN TIME is very ambitious and could well be one of the most original sci-fi masterpieces in recent memory. No doubt Niccol does successfully created a fascinating world of its own where "time is currency" with minute detail that reflects perfectly on our today's society facing a recent world financial crisis. Somewhere in between, Niccol also crafted some intense action sequences with technical know-how and well-placed cameraworks. Among them is the exhilarating car chase scene where Will speeds his sports convertible in reverse along the highway while being pursued by Raymond.
Too bad the same cannot be said the way how Niccol's own screenplay becomes a poor victim of his own. Everything here is poorly executed, while it's mind-boggling to see Niccol's screenplay feels stagnant most of the time. Not even tan ounce of BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967) in the mix can help to save this movie from an enormous bore. Yes, you read that right -- bore. At nearly two-hour length, the movie feels like forever where the pacing is so erratic to a near standstill. No kidding, it's certainly a test of patience for most viewers and I must admit it's a butt-numbing experience to sit through. It's like as if Niccol doesn't know how to elaborate his own screenplay to a coherent feature length.
The cast also suffers the same consequences. Justin Timberlake is clearly miscast to play the lead here, especially with all the blank-faced expression and lackluster charisma to make him an ideal everyman he tries to portray in his role. Amanda Seyfried spends most of the time looking like a lost puppy, and it doesn't help when her acting is surprisingly -- should I say -- robotic. Faring equally worse is Vincent Kartheiser, whose wooden expression is simply hard to tolerate. Still, other supporting actors able to carry off their roles reasonably well enough: Cillian Murphy brings a world-weary look to his despicable character who stops at nothing to pursue Will and Sylvia at all cost, while Olivia Wilde is particularly devastating in her a brief but memorably heartbreaking scene where she is left stranded outside the city and tries to reunite with Will before her last minutes run out. Then there's Alex Pettyfer, who often act his role like a block of wood (case in evidence: 2011's I AM NUMBER FOUR), is surprisingly well-cast as the psychotic Fortis who loves to take pleasure in sucking the last seconds from a person's life.
It's a shame that Niccol fails to capitalize his own brilliant concept he has laid out in this movie. IN TIME marks his first rotten piece of work to date -- an unexpected result I bet most die-hard fans of his work find it hard to believe.