A million years isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?

Sunday November 6th 2011

Like a lot of science fiction movies released in the last year or two (Repo Men, The Adjustment Bureau, Cowboys & Aliens), In Time has a fucking great set-up and nowhere to go afterwards. Set in a world where TIME IS LITERALLY MONEY (check your complacency at the door, Western capitalism), the film depicts a society of haves — heartless bastards with thousands of hours on their literal body clocks — and have nots — downtrodden menial workers who start each day in full knowledge that it might well be their last. Such a scenario is a veritable treasure trove for screenwriters, filled with opportunities for essentially silly but inexplicably tense little sequences that simply couldn’t take place in our boring old ‘money is money’ universe. Perversely, In Time all but ignores these possibilities, instead filling its dynamic, sprawling universe with about as much character and drama as a half-hour game of Sim City.

The inhaler kid from The Social Network plays Will Salas, a factory worker who unexpectedly finds himself in possession of a large number of years while living day-to-day in the slums. Assuming he’s stolen the time, a government task force called the ‘Minute Men’ begin tracking him across the city. (Isn’t ‘Minute Men’ a delightfully twee nickname for a brutal police force? It’s like calling a real-world robbery squad the ‘Penny Pinchers’.)

There are wimmins in the film in the form of Will’s mum Rachel (Olivia Wilde) and his love interest Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried). If you’re wondering why they’re roughly the same age it’s because, since the inception of the whole ‘time is money’ thing, the human ageing process has been frozen at 25. Don’t ask how. So basically every actor in the movie is more or less in their mid-twenties. It’s a bit like the way they cast all other Hollywood movies. Except more self-righteous.

You might think the filmmakers would use this conceit to comment on society’s innate ageism, or at least the importance we continue to place on beauty and youth above all else. After all, Timberlake and Seyfried could have 70 years between them and still both look roughly the same age. Imagine the implications! But no. Terrified of broaching even the slightest of taboos, In Time goes to great lengths to explain that the lovebirds are actually both in their late twenties, allowing us to rest assured that they’d look nice fucking even if they hadn’t been frozen in their prime.

It’s cop outs like these that stop the film being anything like the agitprop masterpiece it wants to be. It shows its hand five minutes in and spends the rest of its intolerable two-hour runtime pushing that hand further and further into the audience’s face. That’s not how you play poker.