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The Scarlet & Black

Film Perception: Just “In Time” for Another Movie

Dystopian fiction, whether in literature or film, will forever be one of my favorite genres. While it may seem pessimistic to be so invested in such unpleasant societies, it is undeniable that dystopian fiction is some of the most interesting, creative and thought-provoking of any genre. One of my favorite dystopian concepts is that of the movie “In Time.”

This 2011 dystopian sci-fi action adventure thriller (that’s a lot of categorization!) is directed by Andrew Niccol and stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried of “Mean Girls” and Cillian Murphy of “Inception” as the three main characters. The film has a host of other famous cast members including Olivia Wilde, Johnny Galecki and Matt Bomer.

In this dystopian world, people are genetically modified to stop aging on their 25th birthdays. All currency is in the form of time, indicated by a digital clock on one’s forearm. Upon turning 25, you are given exactly one year of time and may only gain more through work, gambling or other illegal means, as no one voluntarily gives away their time. The movie focuses on two main “time zones”: one extremely poor where most people live day by day and the other extremely wealthy where its inhabitants can live for centuries without worry.

The protagonist, Will Salas, is a 28-year-old factory worker who lives each day on edge in the poorer time zone and relies on his daily earnings to survive. One night, he rescues a very wealthy 105-year-old man named Henry Hamilton from a gang of time-knapping thugs appropriately named “Minutemen,” and in return, Hamilton secretly grants Salas over a century of time before running out and falling off a bridge. Salas is immediately the main suspect in Hamilton’s death, as he was the last person to interact with him and has all the man’s time. After a sad scene I refuse to spoil, Will begins gambling with his time before being taken in by the police, the “Timekeepers.” He takes time-rich 27-year-old Sylvia as a hostage, and after an action sequence they decide to team up and become dystopian Robin Hoods, robbing time banks and upending the system.

What I really enjoy about this movie and dystopian stories in general is the significant message about society that is part of the plot. In “In Time,” the idea of impending death encourages one to work hard and live each day to the fullest. On another hand, Hamilton giving away his time, essentially killing himself, serves to critique the concept of extending our lifespans far past what they naturally are. It points out the essential truth that money and time do not equal happiness. This movie really makes the viewer question their moral stance and if one would choose to become immortal if given the chance.

With all of that in mind, this film recommendation might be a bit controversial considering the reviews given to it on sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Initially the reviews make it seem as if the movie is pretty bad, and you’d probably ask yourself why I would recommend a terrible movie. However, if you look through the reviews, you’ll see the main complaint involves directing choices. Most people agree the concept of the film and the acting are fantastic, but some of the choices with plot explication and timing are what bring the movie’s quality down.

However, despite these negative aspects of the film, I still believe it is a very interesting movie with an incredible concept that I will continue to rewatch. Of course, there are better executed dystopian films such as “Gattaca,” “The Matrix” and “Minority Report,” all amazing movies that you should see at some point. Even so, “In Time” has a unique premise that you won’t find in other movie. I truly think everyone should see this thought-provoking film at least once and open their minds to the concepts of time, aging and mortality.

— Allison Isztok ’20

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