Kiwi writer/director and Academy Award nominee Andrew Niccol may not hog New Zealand headlines like Peter Jackson and Jane Campion, but then why should he? With Gattaca, S1m0ne, Lord of War, oh and The Truman Show under his belt, you’d think he’d spend his days floating around in a giant pool sipping cocktails. But after watching his latest futurist offering In Time, you get the feeling he’s still staying up til 3am each night hunched over his computer, googling conspiracy theories and trying to figure out how to change the destiny of mankind.
Niccol’s current obsession is with the global economy, but he has cleverly disguised this underneath a metaphor as subtle as Kirstie Alley. In Niccol’s future people stop aging at 25 and have the potential to become immortal. But there’s a catch – from the age of 25 you only have one more year on the clock, meaning you have to constantly buy more time to stay alive. The poor live hour to hour and the privileged lock their time in vaults and live by the mantra “for a few to be immortal, many must die”. Time is the new currency, but it’s really a statement on the division between rich and poor, get it?
For those who like pop candy with their supersized metaphors, there’s Justin Timberlake in the lead role of Will Salas, a good kid from the wrong side of the tracks working hard to keep himself and his mother alive in a world where prices rise daily. (The fact that his mother also looks 25 – and rather like Timberlake’s former flame Jessica Biel – is more than a little disconcerting.) Will’s life takes an unexpected turn when he finds himself on the run with uptown girl Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried).
There are some holes in the film. Will suffers bereavement early on in the film and seems to forget about it almost immediately. His renegade father is alluded to once or twice but Will doesn’t take much interest in him. Many people look older than 25 (30 year old Timberlake is a prime example). Though everyone else is dressed for a cocktail party at all hours of the day Sylvia is always inexplicably dressed like a manga prostitute. And despite the constant tick of the clock, Will and Sylvia spend an awful lot of time sitting in the car wondering what they should do. And then kissing.
Madmen’s Vincent Kartheiser plays Sylvia’s time-rich father and delivers another deliciously smarmy performance – though Kartheiser, like a number of the actors playing older characters, lacked the gravitas needed to make us believe he really was in his 60s. Highlights are the glamorous retro-cool art direction and another chilling performance from Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, Inception). Oh and there was a pretty cool fight sequence where JT totally wasted some dudes.
In this instance Niccol’s direction was better than his writing, and with some questions around his penmanship (he’s facing a plagiarism suit from sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison) directing could be the way of the future for this talented expat.
Kathryn van Beek