In Time

November 6, 2011

I very much wanted to see this because it’s written and directed by Andrew Niccol, who wrote and directed Gattaca, probably the best science fiction movie of the last twenty years.  He also wrote The Truman Show, another splendid speculative film.  It’s been awhile since he’s tackled science fiction.  So, how did he do?

This is the kind of wonderfully crunchy thought-experiment science fiction that I love, and that doesn’t often show up in movies.  In Time depicts a world where time has replaced money, and your currency — your lifespace — is printed on your arm, constantly ticking downward.  A cup of coffee will cost four minutes of your life, thank you very much.  The idea is explored through the lives of the characters, rather than in an opening scroll, which is how it’s supposed to be done.  And the implications are well thought out, indeed — in the well-to-do part of town, people move slower.  They have time to spare, after all.  All the obvious plays on language are there:  wasted time, lost time, a panhandler asks if “you’ve got a minute,” a mugger will “clean your clock.”  It’s kind of fun.  There’s a sinister implication:  those in power, whose clocks read centuries, are rigging the system to keep the poor classes living day-to-day — literally.  In the ghetto, people who never have more than a few hours on their clocks spend their days earning the hours that will let them live for just another day.  And if this is starting to sound like a highly relevant metaphor, you’d be exactly right.  In fact, it’s best to read to the whole thing as an allegory.

In the end, I have to admire how apt a metaphor it really is.  When I was an hourly wage slave, I often thought of it as selling my time.  Selling my life.  A trained chimp could have done my work for the most part.  I was young and poor — all I had was time to sell.  At $6 an hour, because that’s what it was worth.  (In fact, some financial health programs encourage you to think of your finances as hours in your life — if it’ll take you four hours of work to pay off that sweater you want, how much do you really want that sweater after all?)  When I quit working to write full time, it was because I looked at my paycheck and realized I was selling my life for $11 an hour.  My time had become much more valuable than that.

I appreciate a movie that tries and mostly succeeds at clever.  I especially like good science fiction.  I have some quibbles with the film itself — my friends and I each had a different scene that drove us bonkers and threw us out of the story.  The second act is filled with a lot of terribly unnecessary action sequences.  And again with the kidnapped woman falling in love with her kidnapper. . .  But Niccol has a great sense of style, and a mediocre Niccol film is still miles above most of what’s out there that’s calling itself science fiction these days.  I’m also becoming a fan of Olivia Wilde, just because.  She’s Hollywood gorgeous and manages not to act like it.

Oh, and as far as that old “immortality would be boring, nobody really wants to live forever” trope — I would be happy to test that out for you all, and find out if living forever young really is boring and unattractive.  Just let me know.


8 Responses to “In Time”

  1. JetboyGirl Says:

    I really enjoyed the movie except that it was chock full of the one thing that suspends my disbelief to no end: women in action movies wearing ridiculously high heels. That girl was running throughout the whole movie in 4-inch heels. She even jumped out of a window and landed on a car IN HEELS and didn’t break her leg!

    Other people may think its a minor quibble that I should get over, but the feminist in me just can’t handle it. In fact, it’s getting to the point that it seriously offends me – women can be tough and be action heroes, but they have to be extremely stylish when they do so, even if it’s in an unbelievable manner that actually debilitates the physical ability of the woman.

    I loved the movie and loved the premise. It’s always nice when SF is socially concerned, it’s just a shame that this movie wasn’t concerned about women!

  2. carriev Says:

    Yeah, one of the scenes I mentioned that really bothered us? The heels were one.

    And I’m really totally over the big fake eyelashes style that’s prevalent right now. This is a whole separate rant: women in movies like this aren’t real, they’re a trope, and the trope is “pretty,” and nothing else matters. It’s so frustrating.

  3. Nicole Says:

    The heels, yes, huge issue (I was checking their silhouettes on the roof-top chase to see what was on her feet) and that flaming red bob on a Bonnie-andClyde duo wasn’t exactly flying under the radar, either. I could understand the heels at first, when they left a party, but *after* they started their literal life on the run?


    If she hadn’t been wearing them at the end, she would have been able to save herself and not had to rely on the hero coming back for her in the scene that paralleled his mother’s death. You think he’d be screaming at her to ditch the shoes and haul a$$.

  4. Re WIlliams Says:

    If anyone offers me a forever young potion I’ll send them your direction. 🙂

  5. Ty Says:

    Whenever I hear someone say that old, “living forever would be boring” trope I just assume they’re a really boring person. I can’t image ever having a day where I said, “This day is so boring that I’d rather be dead.”

  6. Jacqie Says:

    I loved the first part of the movie. The actor who played the rich guy slumming ( I think he’s in White Collar) did a great job and made me interested to see what happened next. After it became a game of chase and bank robbing, it lost much of its appeal for me, because it went for the easy storyline rather than a smarter exploration of the world.

    Also, was anyone else reminded of Stallone’s “Over the Top” in the arm-wrestling scene? Ugh to that. And double ugh to the shoes.

  7. Miss Bliss Says:

    Oh I’m glad to hear this movie, for the most part, is good. I’ve been wanting to see it. I too am so tired of the the eyelashes, make up in bed and high heels. It makes think very kindly on James Cameron during his Terminator 2 days…and that’s not easy because he’s not a particularly nice man when it comes to women, but that’s another story. Linda Hamilton in T2 was realistic, whip cord strong and unapologetic…at the same time that she could see her situation from a new angle when it became obvious she should. I don’t recall her wearing make up in the mental hospital or heels ever.

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