In the future there will be no need for money, and nobody will age past twenty-five years old, which sounds fair enough until you hear the catch: that there is a limit on how far you can live past that age, and if you run out of time then you will die. Therefore time is the new currency, and how much you have left is indicated by a clock on your forearm, with the most impoverished citizens living day to day - literally - and the ones blessed with years ahead of them well out of the ghettos it costs more time to leave. For Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), opportunity is about to come knocking...
Thumpingly heavy-handed metaphor alert! In Time was writer and director Andrew Niccol's further investigation into the science fiction worlds he could make a statement about after penning nineties classic The Truman Show and cult favourite Gattaca, here employing the old adage "Time is money" and taking it as far as that comparison would go in the framework of an action thriller. However, in this instance what you got was a mishmash of would-be Philip K. Dick conceptualisations, The 39 Steps as told by Alfred Hitchcock, and a heavy dose of the Robin Hood story, all straining towards making a statement about society.
Specifically the financial crisis afflicting the world, and by design tapping into the increasing resentment for the well off of this world who were seen by Niccol's script as exploiting the less wealthy: the ordinary bloke (or blokette) in the street, basically. This fighting back against the system is triggered when Will meets a man in a bar called Henry (Matt Bomer), and tries to save him from the so-called Minutemen (led by gangster Alex Pettyfer) who steal time from those who have even the slightest surplus of it. This Henry actually has a full century to play with, but once Will sneaks him out of the bar and to a hideout he gifts it all to him and slips out of the building to fall off a bridge, dead.
Now with all these years to play with Will sets about being generous, as a model of the kind of citizen Niccol thought should be populating the richer end of the social spectrum. It's not enough to save his mother (Olivia Wilde) unfortunately and as she dies in his arms in clunkily contrived fashion he makes up his mind to do something about the injustice in the world, dammit. Off he goes to one of the wealthy sectors, where he catches the attention of lawman Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) who is suspicious about where a supposed pleb like Will got all this time from. By and by he starts to gamble and meets rich bastard Vincent Kartheiser, who he wins big from, not least because he attracts his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).
Apart from demonstrating to the audience the tricky art of running in high heels for prolonged chase sequences, Seyfried was our leading lady to sum up what a good, hard consciousness-raising can do to a poor little rich girl. Soon she has teamed up with Will and they are setting about liberating all those hours, days, weeks, months and years from the banks and distributing them amongst the poor, but having trouble hanging onto their own time reserves in the process. Honestly, if you took out the amount of scenes where characters press their wrists to each other and we see their clocks either rising or falling then the film would be about half an hour long. But never mind that, it's wealth redistribution Niccol wanted us to contemplate, which was all very well but did look as if the had thought of the politics first and the rest of the plot long afterwards. If the message appealed to you, you might still have trouble balancing that with the unconvincing format. Music by Craig Armstrong.