In Time is a rarity in a wide release, general entertainment: true science fiction. There are many attempts or movies cloaked in science fiction. Limitless, Rise of the Apes, Another Earth, Melancholia, just to name a recent few. But all of these use the science premise as a macguffin to tell the story they want to tell–and the science fiction is usually a thin veneer and unevenly applied to the world. Of all these I just mentioned, Melancholia comes closest to hitting the mark through and through, but is not really done for a general audience and is less than clear in its realities.
In pacing and breadth, In Time comes much closer to Gattaca than anything else I’ve seen in a long while. Again, I’m talking about broadly targeted films. There are many smaller distribution films that are constantly being released. But bigger films tend to be horror or adventure or action films draped with science fiction to allow them an excuse to blow things up or show really cool visuals. And I enjoy these kinds of films a great deal, but I don’t confuse them with good, solid science fiction.
So with that lead up, what set this film apart? Put simply, they took a premise and followed it through into all aspects of life and society rather than just changing one thing and leaving the rest the same or twisting the outcomes to meet the needs of the film rather than the logic of the choice.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t a few pedantic moments; more than a few to be honest. And the metaphors and analogies as they apply to our lives in the real world are ever present. In some cases it feels like a hammer rather than a surgical instrument working on your brain. But the commitment to the idea of time as currency, which is a wonderful bit of wordplay in itself, has been thought through in very deep ways. All changes like these will fall apart with too much scrutiny, but you can look pretty darn deep before the fabric here starts to fray.
In addition to the world that was created, the cast has some nice surprises. In fact, I don’t even want to expose them as they were little treats for those that would care. In the primary roles, Timberlake and Seyfried, were cleverly set up to be closer to their real ages and so can pull off the naivete and sense of invulnerability that a character with more years in their background may not feel. And while some of the choices seem forced, the background is provided… eventually… to support the actions and attitudes.
Beyond the ideas, there is also plenty of action and humor to keep this film moving. They didn’t take themselves too seriously, which is to say they treated every character like a a real person with real reactions. I’m not going to say this was the best sf I’ve ever seen, but it was refreshing and exciting to see some real thought go into an idea and watch in unfold in a way that got me thinking and even cringing at times. And I can recommend it unflinchingly as a solid story worth your time <ahem>.