A few weeks ago the GF and I head to the theater to see “In Time.” The movie had gotten mediocre reviews and seemed to be slipping quickly out of the pop culture. Catching a 9:30 show should be no problem, right? Forty-five minutes before hand it was sold out. That was the first of my In Time surprises for the evening.
In Time takes the idea of time=money to a new level. Everyone is born with a time bank of one year in their body. They grow up normally until they turn 25. Then they stop aging completely. They will look that way for the rest of their lives. At the same time, they start drawing down on that time bank. A clock embedded into everyone’s arm ticks off the seconds and minutes. When you’re out of time, you simply die.
People can transfer time to one another, however. That makes it a currency. Workers get paid in hours for the hours they put in. A cup of coffee costs not just the time it takes to drink it, but the minutes you give to the coffee shop to purchase it. Time can be transferred person-to-person or between people and machines. The poor often live day-to-day or hour-by-hour. The wealthy have personal time banks of hundreds or thousands of years.
The difference between the rich and poor is striking. They live in completely separate areas (or “time zones” (cute)). It’s not that the poor are locked out, it’s just that they don’t have the time to pay tolls and costs. You can tell who is poor and who is rich by how fast they move. The poor run everywhere; the rich have time to walk and waste.
The action starts when Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a wealthy person, is tired of living. He can’t see the justice in living forever with the elites while most of society simple drops dead when they run out of time. He meets Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and gives him the rest of his time – about 100 years – with the simple instruction, “Don’t waste my time.” He then let’s his remaining minutes wind down and he dies.
And we’re off to the races.
I found this to be a very interesting movie in several ways. The basic story is fascinating; I love the concept. The philosophies and questions of right and wrong are interesting to ponder. The way it explores human nature if fascinating. And stepping out of the movie world for a moment, the way this film fails is also terribly interesting to me.
I liked this movie, but I want to start by talking about it’s failure. I know it sounds terribly pompous, but I think of this in terms of the ancient Greek analysis of rhetoric. In order for a message to be successful, you have to address the Logos (appeal to logic), the Pathos (appeal to the emotion), and Ethos (based on the speaker’s moral character, expertise, competence, spirit, etc). The problem with In Time is that it successful engages the Logos, but only barely engages in Ethos, and is a complete failure on Pathos.
While I can appreciate this film on an intellectual level, it it utterly lacking in heart. The emotions are logical and expected, but I didn’t feel them in the audience. It failed to pull me in and get me to cheer for the hero and boo the underdog.
I think that’s the reason it didn’t get as much attention as it deserved. Most people don’t go to the movies primarily to think. If they did, the documentary genre would have more box office hits.
People go to the movies for the sensory experience and to feel something. In Time is a great thinking movie; it never successfully grabs the audiences’ hearts.
I did have several other problems with the movie. I didn’t really feel the sudden character change from guy-seeking-justice to Robin Hood. It just happened suddenly.
They are also sloppy with the “Time Zones” and exactly what they mean. Early in the movie, the trip across them seem like it takes hours. Later, it seems to take minutes.
The CGI for a car rolling down an embankment is just bad. And I’m really not buying how the characters keep escaping injury.
The ability to track and monitor minutes as they pass from one person to another seems inconsistent.
There are a few other things like that. It seems like the script needed a couple more revisions before being shot.
After reading all that, you might think I hated the movie. I don’t. There are a lot of things it did well, but that’s mainly in the ideas they explored.
They explore the two different paths one can take when they receive a sudden gift of time or money. For some, it’s self destructive; for other’s it’s empowering. It’s interesting to consider the high bankruptcy rates of lottery winners and other windfall recipients have in our world.
It explores the difference in behavior between those who have everything and those who have nothing to lose. The wealthy in the film become afraid of anything that might kill them (you can still die accidentally despite having centuries on your clock. You’re time can also be stolen from you).
The poor, when pursuing what they perceive to be noble goals, will take risk and chances. As the Bob Dylan song goes, “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” In Time addresses it at the level of an individual gambler and at the macro level of the society at large.
I always like to be aware of that idea. It can inform negotiations, business strategies, and politics. It’s an idea that can help explain some aspects of the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also informs the situation surrounding the Palestinian issue in Israel, or the occasional summer riots outside Paris.
Our own Occupy [insertnamehere] protests haven’t gotten too ugly because those protesting still have something to lose.
Extreme poverty and desperation are bad not just for the poor, but for the wealthy, too. When people have nothing to lose, then taking a destabilizing chance is worth a shot.
One lesson my father taught me is that the most dangerous person in a bar isn’t the big guy. It’s the angry little guy in the corner who is at the end of his rope.
In Time touches on the differences between justice and law. I mentioned Robin Hood earlier and that’s an element to the film. There’s also a very Inspector Javert story line. People in the film are not doing everything for their own self interests. Many characters, even the “villain” in the film are doing what they think is right – they are doing the best the can to help society be the best it can be.
It’s helpful to keep this in mind when dealing with politics and politicians, too. The opposition may or may not be corrupt. They may simply feel that what they are doing is the right thing – it is for the best – regardless of how I may feel about it.
The movie explores what happens when someone who isn’t “supposed” to have resources suddenly does, and how society responds to that.
In Time explores what it means to flood an area with resources, the role of inflation in affecting those resources, and the role of organized crime when things get turned upside down.
The interesting thing about it (and I’m sure some will disagree) is that In Time is not a liberal screed against those who hoard resources. The movie raises the complicated issues of what happens when Robin Hood gets his way.
In short, I love the premise of the movie. I love the concepts it explores. I do not care for the inconsistencies in the story and the film’s inability to emotionally connect with the audience.
But it’s a movie that made me think. It left me with thoughts, impressions, ideas, arguments, and counter arguments bouncing around inside my skull. That I enjoyed.
If you want to think, watch this movies. If the last thing you want from a movie is for it to give you an opportunity to reevaluate the entire world financial system, then this is probably not the film for you.
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