The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

In Time: It had the potential to be so much more

with 20 comments

In the middle of life, death comes
to take your measurements. The visit
is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit
is being sewn on the sly.

Those words by the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer are among the best I’ve ever read about death and how we deal with it as we’re aging.

Deep down we realize that there’s a countdown and that it involves us too, but in order to remain sane we choose to pretend it’s not there.

Occasionally there’s a rupture in our bubble of denial. We get a glimpse of death as someone close to us gets ill or dies. And for a brief moment we suddenly hear that clock ticking, the sound we usually drown in a flurry of activities, anything that keeps us too busy to stop for a moment.

We hear it. Tick. Tock. And it freaks us out, but at the same time it intensifies life in a way that only the awareness of death can do. Seeing that signpost telling us that the road will end at a certain point makes us realize what a privilege it is to be among the living, to still be travelling that road.

Before we came alive there were eons and eons of our non-existing and after we’re gone, eons and eons will follow. We’re just a weird exception to our natural state of death. Screw those lotteries with their billion pot prizes! We’ve already won the top one. We’ve still got heartbeats to go, breaths to be taken. We’ve got time and those whose suits are ready to be used envy us.

The insight will only last ever so briefly and there’s no use trying to hold on to the feeling for long. You can touch it but not crunch it. The very moment you try to close your fist around it, it will crumble and disappear in the same way as grains of sand.

And this is all in order. Carpe diem sounds fine, but if I kept walking on the edge of death every second of the day, paying attention to the fact that I was alive, it would wear me down pretty quickly. There is a suit sewn for me as well, but I prefer them to make it for me without my knowledge.

Etched on their arms
The people in the sci-fi movie In Time haven’t got much of a choice though. They don’t just know the point when they’re going to die; they have the countdown watch etched in green on their arms, counting down the days, hours and seconds that remain until they’ll drop dead on the ground where they stand.

They can increase their remaining life span. Time is the new currency and you can earn it the same way as you earn money: by work, theft, inheriting, prostitution, gambling or begging.

A few lucky ones in the upper class can ensure themselves eternal life. The majority are likely to die in their 30s, at the latest.

It’s a simple idea, but intriguing, waking all sorts of questions and ethical dilemmas, of which only a few are explored in the movie.

I loved the concept and that’s why it felt like a shame that it half of half was wasted.

This could have become a dark, frightening and gripping dystopian film, something as powerful as The Road.  Instead they went for a traditional good-guy-chased-by-the-bad-guys-story in combination with a standard romance.

Perhaps it was the presence of Justin Timberlake that put the filmmakers on the wrong track. I can imagine the discussion as they made up what they thought would be a perfect date move.  “We’ll give the ladies some romance and the guys a few car chases. But not too much of that weird hard core science fiction right? We don’t want to scare off people”.

A waste
It sounds as if I really disliked it, but that’s not the case. It will get a decent rating, because I’m notoriously generous, but also because I was quite entertained all in all. The time flied (no pun intended).

However I’m frustrated. It feels like such a waste, especially considering that the director as well as writer is Andrew Niccol, who wrote the script for Truman Show, which is a remarkable film, one of my favorites.

In Time is just average. It could have been brilliant. It could have raised all those questions that science fiction is so good at rising: about life, death and the meaning of all of it.

In Time (Andrew Niccol, US, 2011) My rating: 3,5/5

Written by Jessica

April 25, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in In Time, Uncategorized

20 Responses

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  1. Nice review, Jess. I too thought it was an okay film with a bunch of potential that went missing…. such a good concept, just rather average execution. Justin Timberlake has proven he can headline a film, though. I thought his performance in this was great, all things considered!

    Rodney

    April 25, 2012 at 3:09 am

    • Thanks! I agree that he was fine. I wasn’t as much into Amanda Seyfried though. Most of all I thought about her wig and about how high heels she had to run with. Again: the character wasn’t really all that sympathetic, so perhaps she did was she was supposed to.

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 7:42 am

  2. I’m starting to think that Niccol should just write screenplays, not execute them himself.

    Sofia

    April 25, 2012 at 5:51 am

    • I thought so too for a moment but I have to admit that I think some of the problems are in the script. The story. He could have made a better story out of that idea I think. I guess it could be comprimises and corporate decisions that we see the result of. You never know.

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 7:43 am

  3. I agree, when I first saw the trailer for this I thought it would be a movie looking at death and how we handle it, and what would happen if we could control it to an extent, I was hoping for a new Bicentennial Man ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicentennial_Man_(film) ) and instead got a pretty okay Deus Ex means a Bourne movie.

    But Avengers comes out soon and for multiple reasons (introducing continuity and shared universes as a profitable idea to hollywood being perhaps the biggest) and and and the Hobbit this december..I shall endure any bad movie and probably still consider this a good year for movies.

    Holly "Digit" Dotson

    April 25, 2012 at 7:29 am

    • 2012 still has to prove itself to be as excellent as I thought 2011 was. But we still have a lot of time to go.

      The Hobbit is the movie I look forward to most, followed by Prometheus I think. As of the Avengers I will watch it on Saturday since it’s the pick of the month for the Swedish film blogger’s meetup. But I don’t expect too much from it. I wasn’t a fan of Thor and I’m generally hard to win over for comic based superhero movies. (Dark Knight being an exception.)

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 7:47 am

      • Iron man was a lot better than thor, Thor felt like a build-up movie leading to the avenger’s sadly. I didn’t care much for it either. The big with the Avengers isn’t quite as much as how it’ll be for the movies, it’s the idea, that 4 seperate films now have a shared universe and continuity, and characters popping back and forth between each, it’s the first ever attempted at even this small scale. If it does well, it could drastically change storytelling in Hollywood. Of having lines and ties that cross genres, and having continual story arcs outside of the self contained stories, it’s a really neat idea.

        Holly "Digit" Dotson

        April 25, 2012 at 10:50 pm

  4. It really was wasted potential, the concept was interesting, but all of a sudden it turned into a Bonnie and Clyde movie. Could have been a lot better. I liked the design of the movie a lot.

    Nostra

    April 25, 2012 at 8:45 am

    • Bonnie and Clyde indeed. It’s such a pity. One of the few times when I’d actually be up for a remake. 🙂

      Smash the pot and start over again.

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 9:58 am

  5. You certainly liked this a LOT more than I did.

    Would have been a cool TV show… Maybe a twilight zone type episode… but dragged as a feature.

    • I’m such a sucker for science fiction you know, idea-based such. I thought the idea was great, but it was wasted.

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 11:17 am

  6. I completely agree, Jessica! I loved the concept, and intriguing one for sure, but the execution would’ve been great if they had steered it in another direction. Justin Timberlake is a talented actor, but both him and Amanda Seyfried shouldn’t have been in this film. Maybe a couple with more gravitas. Excellent post! Check out my brief review: http://fernandorafael.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/in-time-2011/

    fernandorafael

    April 25, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    • We really seem to agree! Thank you for your kind words! And it’s so sweet of you to not just comment on, but also like my posts! Us bloggers like to get hugs. 🙂

      Jessica

      April 25, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      • Well, I’m just being honest. I liked your review a great deal, so why shouldn’t I click the “like” button? hehe just a way of showing my appreciation 🙂

        fernandorafael

        April 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm

  7. I was looking forward to this when i first heard about it, but the reviews have kind of killed my excitement.I don’t always agree with the majority, but i’m not really in a rush to see it anymore

    dirtywithclass

    April 26, 2012 at 12:25 am

    • It’s an ok movie, but not unforgettable. It felt like Limitless to me: a piece of light entertainment for people who like sci-fi style movies.

      Jessica

      April 29, 2012 at 11:14 pm

  8. I thought it was a great idea that went very wrong. The exectuion was good with nice cinematography and beautiful soundtrack, but the cast wasn’t well chosen – Timberlake and Seyfried were a disaster. It’s yet another recent sci-fi film that had great idea but the weak script made it into forgettable movie.

    sati

    April 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    • I thought Timberlake was ok, but the biggest impression I got from Seyfried was her wig. She was way more charming in Mamma Mia.

      Jessica

      April 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

  9. It’s an Andrew Niccol movie, I expected something brilliant. Instead I got an enjoyable, well made but overall forgettable movie. They could have done so much more with it, you’ve got a fun concept, why not delve into it?

    If you haven’t watched Niccols Gattaca, I highly recommend that one, it’s one of my top ten movies. And it does what this movie does not: delve deep into a concept. What if you can genetically engineer your children? What are the implications? What’s moral?

    carrandas

    April 29, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    • I’m afraid I haven’t watched that one, but I would like to for sure. This misstep hasn’t diminished my interest for Niccol.

      Jessica

      April 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm


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