Wednesday, July 18, 2012

800 Things Wrong with "In Time"

I recently saw the movie “In Time” starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried. It wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it was far from the best. It was way too long, especially for a movie about two people who essentially become Sci Fi Robin Hoods/Bonnie and Clyde. Also, the conceit of the film does not seem to have been thought all the way through. The concept is sort of a modern day “Logan’s Run.” Everyone is genetically engineered to stop aging at 25. The catch is, you then have a year to live. You can “earn” more time the same way people earn money in our world, but you also have to pay for everything with your time, so a sudden jump in your rent can literally cost you your life. A cup of coffee costs a few minutes, whereas a night in a nice hotel might cost you a whole month or more. People are confined by toll booths to different “time zones,” where the people in the ghetto rarely have more than a day in the bank (actually, on a clock genetically built into their arms) and people in the highest zone (New Greenwich) are essentially immortal, with hundreds or even millions of years to spend according to their whims. When Will Salas (Timberlake) is suddenly gifted 100 years by a suicidal New Greenwich citizen, he decides to use his new time to go on a crusade and collapse the system from the top on down.

This is kind of a clever idea, and an obvious allegory for the vicious class system that are own nation enjoys, but as I said, all the details don’t seem to have been worked out. To wit, I present the 800 (and by 800, I mean five) plot holes in “In Time.” SPOILERS AHEAD!

1. Short Timers

The stride in which people in this society take having hours or minutes to live is completely unbelievable. Sure, it’s all they’ve ever known, but this is essentially like watching yourself bleed to death and thinking “oh, it’s cool, I’ll figure something out.” In this world, the ghetto is littered with people who “time out.”  What’s important to understand is that there’s no way to protect your time. Anyone can take time from anyone else simply by grabbing their arm. The person can resist, of course, but if you’re strong enough, they can’t stop you. Yet there is only one small gang that ever goes around stealing time. In reality, if you had five minutes to live, you’d grab the next person you saw and beg, threaten or beat them in order to get a few more minutes. Yet in this ghetto where everyone has less than a day to live, there is virtually no violence. It’s implied, but we never see it, despite the fact that it should be happening ALL THE TIME.

2. The Casino

In one of the most ridiculous scenes in the movie, Timberlake faces off against Vincent Karnheiser (Pete Campbell to you Mad Men fans) in a high stakes no limit hold’em poker game. The actual hand is as ridiculous as you would expect from a poker movie scene. On a board of Q 5 6 J, Pete, holding top set, bets FIFTY YEARS, and Timberlake, who’s never had more than a day before in his life, calls with 4 8 offsuit! Naturally, a 7 comes and Timberlake wins a huge pot, but this isn’t the craziest part of the scene. The craziest part is that on the river, Pete essentially puts Timberlake all in. Timberlake calls, by putting his clock in a reader and letting it tick down to nothing. Of course, when it actually hits zeroes, he’s dead and there’s no coming back, so he’s relying on Pete to show the losing hand and for the computer to register it before he checks out, which naturally, is exactly what happens. If this were real, no casino would want players dying at the tables. Just like our world, you would exchange your time for chips and then play with those chips, so that going all in wouldn’t FUCKING KILL YOU.

3. The Time Zones

All that’s separating the ghetto from the next class of time owners is a toll plaza. No tanks, no phalanx of armed men with guns, the only way they can stop you from moving up in the world is by charging you an excessive amount of time to cross into the next zone. There’s nothing stopping you from rushing the barrier, as evidenced when it is crashed through in the middle of the movie with no consequences. In a world like this, it would take exactly two seconds for the time disadvantaged, who are nastier and outnumber the time rich, to revolt, charge the higher zones and take all their time.

4. The Security

One of the most unlikely things about this scenario is how easy it is to take someone’s time. Essentially, it’s like having every dollar you own taped to your body. If this were really how the world worked, someone would very quickly find a way to lock time, so no one could take it against your will. At the very least, someone would invent some goddamn armored sleeves so no one could grab your arm and “clean your clock” (from the movie, yes, very clever) in your sleep.

5. The Bus

This one was my biggest pet peeve about the movie. In the first major plot point of the film, Timberlake’s mom, played by Olivia “Thirteen” Wilde, is getting ready to take the bus home to celebrate her 50th birthday with her son. However, she is shocked to learn that the bus fare has jumped from one hour to two, and mom has only left herself 90 minutes to get home. The charmingly sympathetic bus driver’s advice is, “you’d better run” and she does, only to fall seconds short of connecting with Timberlake in time for him to give her some life saving minutes. The two bitter ironies of this moment are 1) Timberlake has just been gifted 100 years, 50 of which he was probably all set to transfer over to mom and 2) Mom gave Timberlake 30 of her minutes that morning so he could have a nice lunch (which, idiot, maybe make him a fucking sandwich?).

But wait a minute. The cost of bus fare is TWO HOURS? This makes no sense at all. First of all, the standard of this currency is completely out of wack. A nice cup of coffee costs 4 minutes, a nice lunch costs 30 minutes, and a ride on the bus costs TWO HOURS?? Any moron who would take the bus in this kind of economy deserves to die. The second issue is that the bus fare has jumped from one hour to two overnight. This type of inflation is absolutely ludicrous. It’s explained that the rich intentionally jack up the prices of everything so that the lower classes will keep dying, because “for a few to be immortal, many must die” although why this is is never really explained. But doubling overnight? Even if such a thing could happen without an immediate revolution, you can be sure the proposed rate change would have been on the news for weeks, and there’s no way she wouldn’t have known about it. But she doesn’t seem terribly surprised, and neither do any of the passengers who have just been gouged for double the normal bus fare. I mean, why would you spend more time to ride the bus than it would take to get there on foot? You’re all 25! Get a bike!

I’m sure there are 795 more things wrong with this movie (I didn’t even get into the whole “timekeepers” concept), but my time is finite too, so I’m going to end this rant here. Good try, but I think the screenwriter should have spent a little more in time figuring out how this would all actually work.


Anonymous said...

Dear Craig, ignore the ignorant and uninsightful please, this is a fair and well reasoned take on a preposterous premise that so many accepted without question.

Many thanks for the breakdown

Craig Berger said...


Virgilia said...

Really, the only thing I actually liked about In Time was Cillian Murphy's character performance.
It's a pity that with such a smart concept they didn't make a spectacular movie.

Craig Berger said...

I agree! I loved the concept. That's why the execution was so disappointing.

Anonymous said...

Look stop being so harsh it was a great movie and you should just really chill out