In Time is the first Occupy Wall Street movie. Taking the cliché "time is money" to the extreme, the film envisions a future world in which human beings trade for goods and services with the time they have left to live, their bodies switching over to a finite existence when they reach 25, after which minutes are worked for or earned. Through implants in their arms they can trade minutes with each other. There are various time zones in which people with fewer minutes scramble for a day to day existence, while in one burg called New Greenwich, élites live and thrive, hoarding millions of minutes for themselves, insuring that they can live forever. Timekeepers are Matrix-like cops who regulate, track, and suppress excessive time trading, keeping the élites in business. Like Wall Street thieves, the upper classes in the film are vampires, who can live forever on the minutes of the poor they oppress.
In the poor zone lives Will Salas (Justin Timberlake, fine as a sensitive action hero). He is "25 plus three" and his mother (Olivia Wilde) is 50-looking-30, though her clock is ticking down. In a tense moment, she runs to meet her son before her time runs out, but (as the trailer reveals) fails, just when Salas was about to bestow upon her some of the previous, life-giving time that a bored, disillusioned rich guy with "a century of time" bequeathed to him before committing suicide, or at least choosing death. Orphaned, Salas decides to see just what life is like in New Greenwich. There he runs into Sylvia (the exotic Amanda Seyfried), a debutant, and her father, Philippe Weis (TV's Vincent Kartheiser, coming across both as a Bond villain and the new Vincent Price). Weis is the world's time banker, but in the end even he doesn't seem to be in charge of anything. In its second half, In Time turns into a young couple on the run tale, with Salas turning into a world changing activist.
In her important guide to the structure of screenplays, Storytelling in the New Hollywood, Kristin Thompson puts stress on deadlines as motivations for action, and writer-director Andrew Niccol has a field day with deadlines given his premise. He is also the writer and director of the bio-tech sci-fi film Gattaca , and he contributed the screenplay to The Truman Show, which qualifies him as the most thoughtful science fiction filmmaker now working. Before it descends into common Hollywood narrative components in its second half, however, In Time comes up with some amusing notions about what a world would be like if we could stall aging by trafficking in time shares. It gets hard to tell apart parents from children, and choices take on a weird dynamic. And why do the cops, led by Ray Leon (Cillian Murphy), remain loyal to their job? It's just the question the OWS protesters are asking the Manhattan police who pepper spray their eyes. In Time ponders these issues as well as the mixed motivations of the élites led by Weis, who is not a by-the-numbers villain. In Time is only half successful, but the half that is successful is intriguing and intelligent.