In a future world people stop aging at 25 and must work to buy themselves more time, only the rich can reach old age. However, when a rebel (Justin Timberlake) by a stroke of good fortune finds himself lumbered with 100 extra years, he escapes the clutches of a wily "timekeeper" (Cillian Murphy) to the wealthiest district and meets Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), a poor little rich girl just dying to find a way out.
Heavy-handed credit crunch metaphors anyone? In Time feels as if the Occupy Wall Street movement is camping out in screenwriter Andrew Niccol's brain, making sure that every single line in the script reinforces the message that The System Is Unfair.
An action movie set in a dystopian future where time literally is money, it's a terrific concept, that in the hands of someone like Christopher Nolan could really have been something.
Instead, in the hands of Andrew Niccol, who is director and co-producer as well as writer, it feels like a labour of love from someone who woke up one day with what he thought was a really, really good idea - and then didn't have the distance or delicacy to execute it properly.
Here's the premise. Some time in the not too distant future (clothes and haircuts feel contemporary, cars look vintage) the human race run on digital body clocks that give them just one year to live from the age of 25. They will never grow older - but they must use their remaining minutes, days, years, to buy stuff - a bus ride is two hours, a coffee is four minutes, and so on.
The rich can live forever, because they have plenty of time; the workers in the ghetto die young. Bernie Madoff, eat your heart out.
Justin Timberlake, aka Will Salas, is one such worker. After the death of his mother because she couldn't pay the bus fare, and a piece of luck that lands him with extra 100 years on his digital body clock, he escapes to New Greenwich, the most lavish of the "timezones", kidnaps the beautiful daughter (Amanda Seyfried) of wealthy businessman Philippe Weir (Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men fame, and a delicious baddy), and together the two embark on a Robin Hood style adventure.
Like a benevolent Bonnie & Clyde, they crash into time banks and give years back to the poor, all the while chased by a cruel timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy, who, luckily, can do callous fanatic standing on his head) who muses wisely that "they are hurting the very people they want to help." Er, how exactly?
This sort of line is typical of the clunky script, which feels far too far-reaching and worthy (as well as frequently nonsensical) for what should have just been a lively piece of fun. It quickly gets very tired, dropping in as many puns as a News of the World headline. Oh, you mean you literally won't "have time" to stand around? Right.
The constantly ticking clock does make for a decent pace on the whole, although it's slightly marred by Dramatic Moment overkill, and Timberlake and Seyfried have great chemistry. The film looks fantastic too, as slick and glossy as a Bourne or Bond, with the added bonus that literally everyone in it is young and good-looking (they can't grow old, remember?).
Still, there are too many questions remaining: would the poor die of hunger? Is food and water even an issue? Why isn't JT being given any decent lines.?! The boy can actually act for goodness sake.
It's not a total waste of your time. But boy will you wish Niccol had spent more of his on it. With a bit of good judgement this could have been a lot more fun.