What’s the Story?
They’ve cured aging. At twenty-five, everyone stops getting older but the clock on their arm starts ticking down from one year. When it reaches zero, they die. Time has replaced money as currency; they work jobs to get more time, and most people live day to day (meaning that they wake up with less than a day left on their clocks). Time can also be transferred from one person to another by linking arms.
One ghetto-slum man, Will Salas, finds a man who gives him over a hundred years. Being suddenly rich, he heads to the rich district where everyone has hundreds (or thousands, or millions) of years accumulated.
What’s the Problem?
This is a solid piece. Made by the director of Gattaca, and with the same slick sci-fi feel. It also deals with those whole issues of the rich ruling class who have more than they’ll ever be able to use, and the slums where people are being exploited to death every day. Nice timing, what with Occupy Wall Street and the global financial crashes.
It’s also interesting seeing the ghetto where the cost of everything keeps going up purely so the poor people stay poor because the system couldn’t handle everyone being rich. For the society to work, people had to be kept poor, even to the point of dying.
It’s also a neat idea, because there is always a ticking clock to up the dramatic tension. Need a scene to be more dramatic? Just show a shot of Will’s arm with less than a day (or an hour, or a minute) on his clock. Instant tension! (Without resorting to Quentin Tarantino’s everyone-will-have-thousands-of-secrets-and-talk-about-them-forever method from Inglorious Basterds.)
But hidden messages aside, when you start to think about the details of the In Time world, it sort of crumbles. For instance:
All you need to do to take someone’s time is grasp right hand to right hand with your hand on top. That will start stealing their time. In that way, time acts like cash. The difference is, if someone takes your wallet they don’t also cause you to have a heart attack and die.
I find it difficult to believe that the clock allows you to trade away your final seconds of life without any kind of safeguard. You don’t have a password or need a special piece of equipment. If someone stronger than you forces you hand under theirs, they can kill you.
It would make more sense from the point of view of an actual working universe (but ruin several scenes in the film) if you couldn’t trade away, say, your final day. That way, even if someone took your time, you’d still have enough to get home. You wouldn’t just die. It sort of makes murder a bit easy this way, especially since people will kill you for a couples of days in the ghetto, so it’s a real problem that the society acknowledges but doesn’t solve…
You know how you don’t carry around your entire life savings with you? Right? You don’t just wander around with thousands of dollars. Well, most of the people in this film carry around their life savings on their arms. There are small storage devices where people can store their time, but no one seems to use them. Maybe they just don’t have any money to put in such banks.
But the credit lenders do. They have thousands of them, and keep them in a thick, massive-doored vault at the back of the loan shop in the ghetto.
And they leave the door wide open.
With armed, desperate people who will die if they don’t get more time on the other side of a pane of glass.
And you’re telling me no one’s robbed them blind before? You’re telling me that Will is the first to think of driving an armoured truck through the glass and just cleaning the place out?
Banks lock up their cash. Time banks would lock up their time. This is another one that’s necessary for the story – they need it to be fairly easy for Will to steal from them so he can upset the status quo and all – but it doesn’t make logical sense. It’s Action Movie logic: things are exactly as hard as they need to be to seem hard, but are easy for the hero.
If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of running, ladies, wear flats not heels. Wearing heels will get you killed.
If someone kidnaps your daughter, give that man’s description to your guards. That way he can’t pretend to be one of them and take you hostage too. Just sayin’.
Cilian Murphy, you’re an idiot. The Timecop is brought in to investigate the rich guy who gave Will all his time. He catches up with Will when will has won an additional thousand years. There was video camera footage of Will at the scene of the crime, but none of him committing the murder (because he didn’t. Also: the cameras tend to see exactly and only what is convenient for the story).
But when Timecop catches up with Will, he doesn’t actually seem that interested in the original offense. He doesn’t, for instance, interview him about the offense. Or cite evidence and arrest him. He just takes all of Will’s time except two hours and tells his buddies to lock Will up.
Did I miss something in this scene? One corrupt cop, fine. But are all three of them? Really? I can buy that Timecop is bitter and disenfranchised because he’s been doing it for fifty years, but at least one of his partners is still young and idealistic. He wouldn’t go along with stealing a thousand years from someone with no evidence of wrongdoing.
Also, if they wanted to they could have taken the first century, the one Will got off the dead guy. It’s still a douche move, but I can see how their dumb society might confiscate possibly-stolen goods until the case is complete. But he earned the other thousand years by himself, you dicks.
Also, late in the piece it turns out Timecop isn’t actually interested in the crime at all. He’s just worked out that the system needs poor people to die so the rich can keep living.
So… it wasn’t for personal gain. It wasn’t for justice. Timecop was an arsehole just because he won’t let one guy from the slums have a half-decent life?
Good move, dick. Instead you created a revolution which brought down the entire monetary system. You effectively created a national collapse because you wouldn’t let one guy have a lucky break.
Oh, and you completely brought your death on yourself. Maybe next time buy a watch with an alarm, huh?
The Final Scene
is utter bollocks. Typical go-out-on-a-high finish which looks impressive but would get everyone killed.
What’s the Solution?
Depends what you want the film for. If you want a tale with kidnapping and robbery and grand ideals, this is it already, but you also have to accept that the film won’t want you to think too hard about the actual world and what it would be like to live in it.
If you want something that has thought through the intricacies of the world, it would change the feel of the piece entirely and it would be a very different film. A better film? Probably not from a fun point of view. It would have to become much more serious and thinky
Just don’t think too hard. Think exactly as hard as they want you to, and don’t think about anything that isn’t directly onscreen.