In Time - Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried
Time is of the essence for forever-25 fugitives Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Like the short-shelf-life characters in this flabbergastingly moronic movie, you won’t be able to stop checking how much time you have left until the end. Even the shallow pleasure of ogling Amanda Seyfried’s wide-eyed, empty-headed loveliness or Justin Timberlake’s boyish good looks isn’t worth the agony of sitting through this much stupidity.

Timberlake stars as Will Salas, a factory worker in an alternate universe where digital displays on people’s forearms show how much time they have left to live. A one-year countdown kicks in at age 25. Anyone who can’t earn, borrow, steal or be gifted with more time during that year dies when their numbers hit zero. Making things more difficult for struggling members of the underclass, units of time are used as currency — and prices are going up.

At a cheap bar, Will rescues an upper-cruster who lets the wrong people know he has more than a century banked on his arm. The suicidal swell later explains that “the day comes when you’ve had enough…we want to die. We need to.” In other words, this is one of those insultingly stupid stories in which we are supposed to believe that jaded members of an overprivileged elite grow so tired of enjoying the good life they would rather be dead. Boo-friggin’-hoo.

The whiny idiot gives Will his hundred years through some kind of forearm-grip transference technology (don’t ask) before jumping off a bridge. Seeing his chance to use his new temporal bankroll to finance some class-warfare payback, Will announces that “I’m gonna make them pay.” He books a limo and heads to the upscale and exclusive “time zone” of New Greenwich.

In Time - Amanda Seyfried
Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) is an heiress with a lot of time on her arm © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox

That’s where he meets sexy Sylvia Weis (Seyfried), the ripely luscious daughter of a wealthy family whose fortune was made through time-based loan-sharkery. She’s an overprotected capitalist princess, he’s a bad boy Robin Hood, it’s kismet!

Halfway through the film, director/writer Andrew Niccol seems to change his mind about whether he is making a dystopian-but-dumb Twilight Zone parable about social injustice, or a cartoonishly camp gun-happy farce. The obvious time-is-money allegory is pounded home so mercilessly it becomes an excuse to see how many bad puns characters can spout. Flamboyant gangster Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) tells victims he will clean their clocks. The poor stand in timelines instead of breadlines. When Will beats Sylvia’s dad at poker, Sylvia notes that “you’ve taken years off my father’s life.”

Worried that Will’s robbing the rich and giving to the poor will upset financial markets, “Timekeeper” cop Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) is dispatched to bring him in. You’d think that would be a simple task, but apparently a society with enough magic technology to extend or shorten people’s lives to the second can’t figure out how to put tracking devices in police cars, use handcuffs or check to see if an escaped prisoner may be hiding out in his own home. Dumb, dumber, dumbest.

Before seeing this movie, I wondered why the producers hadn’t made the title a punning reference to Timberlake’s presence by changing it to Just In Time. A few minutes in, when it becomes obvious the film is going to be one long overstretched allegory, Time Is Money seemed more appropriate.

But long before the final credits roll, it turns out that the most appropriate title of all would have been A Mindbogglingly Worthless Waste of Time — even if Seyfried does look pretty amazing in black lingerie and a purple minidress.

[Rating: 1 star]

In Time gets its theatrical release October 28, 2011

James Dawson

Jim is Film Review Online's Los Angeles based reviewer.