In the future, according to this film, our currency will not be money but time. Everyone gets 25 years. Then the clock starts ticking down. If you have not earned, begged, borrowed, stolen, or inherited time, you die.
Everything is bought and sold for time. A millionaire has a million years saved up and can use them to buy a mansion, hire bodyguards, and postpone death, perpetually looking 25 years old. Everyone else lives — literally — one day at a time.
Writer/director Andrew Niccol likes provocative ideas (he wrote the similarly dystopic “Gattaca” as well as “The Truman Show” and the underrated “Lord of War” and “S1mone”) and this is a good one, well timed with themes that resonate with the 99%/Occupy Wall Street/collapse of the Greek economy issues. People treat and speak of time in this world the way we do with money. Prostitutes offer ten minutes in exchange for an hour of extra life. Toll roads charge in years. People speak of those who “come from time” (inherited wealth) and a nouveau riche character is spotted because he moves fast (“not in everything,” he responds coolly). Those who are used to wealth move very slowly, first because they have literally all the time in the world and second because the one thing that can kill them is a violent accident — or murder.
Justin Timberlake plays Will, a guy from the poor side of town whose fury at being unable to get more time for his mother (the three years younger than the real-life Timberlake Olivia Wilde) makes him determined to topple the entire system. Amanda Seyfried in a red Dora the Explorer-style bob is Sylvia, the wealthy girl he takes hostage until like a cross between Patty Hearst, Bonnie Parker, and Maid Marian, she joins him on a crime spree, stealing time and giving it to those who are running out. Cillian Murphy plays the “Timekeeper” who is chasing them, and “Mad Men’s” Vincent Kartheiser plays Sylvia’s father, who has all the time in the world and wants to keep it that way.
The production design contributes a lot to the story with retro cars and phones in the poorer communities and banks like citadels, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography makes the world of the story look bleak but not hopeless. Timberlake and Seyfried are both talented performers who are a bit out of their element in a sci-fi action film. The idea is better than the execution and it gets rather silly in the last half hour. Until then it is kept aloft by a timely concept that strikes pretty close to home.
Parents should know that this film includes dystopic themes, characters in frequent peril and some are injured and killed. Other characters die abruptly because they “run out of time.” There is brief strong language, a nude swim, and a non-explicit sexual situation and prostitutes.
Family discussion: Why would a culture decide to adopt an economy based on time instead of money? How is that different from a money-based economy and, more important, how is it the same?
If you like this, try: “Gattaca” and “Children of Men”