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October 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The critics all seem to agree: the premise of In Time, the sci-fi movie starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, is intriguing. It concerns a future time when time is literally money — when everyone stops aging at 25. They then receive a year in the bank, but they must buy time to live any longer than that. Some people are so “rich” that they can essentially live forever, but others are so “poor” that they literally have to eke out an existence to live the next day … or they can steal it from others. How well the film fulfills the promise of that premise is the subject of much debate among the critics. “In any other era, In Time would have been a satisfying picture,” writes Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chronicle. “But coming now, today, In Time is not just satisfying. … It arrives in theaters at a time when people are camped out in New York saying the same things as the people in the movie. It’s weird the way films often anticipate the near future.” Michael O’Sullivan in the Washington Post comments that the movie is “lively and well acted enough to keep you from checking your watch. It’s the movie’s themes, however, that may keep you awake at night. [Director Andrew] Niccol has fashioned an effective economic allegory that could well become a rallying cry for the Occupy Wall Street movement. And its philosophy — that there is nothing more precious than time — is a pretty, if hackneyed, sentiment. All in all, In Time is not just stylish but surprisingly substantial.” As O’Sullivan’s review seems to indicate, the reviews also reveal much about their writers’ politics. The New York Post‘s Kyle Smith, a conservative who is quick to pounce on movies that betray their makers’ liberal leanings, writes that the movie could have been used “to lure the Occupy Wall Street crowd away to the movies long enough to allow the patchouli and organic bean curd to be hosed off their tents.” He concludes: “The movie thinks it’s about abuse of capitalism, but it’s more about abuse of authority, and of logic.” On the other hand, Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News remarks, “If the Occupy Wall Street movement is looking for a kindred spirit at the movies, it would seem to be In Time, a film that shares its anger at the disparity between the haves and have-nots.” Sadly, he admits, “this tragically confusing film jams too many conceits into each scene, burying its actors in hokum.” Roger Ebert, who makes no secret of his liberal leanings, calls the premise “damnably intriguing.” But once you get past the premise, what you have is a film “assembled from standard elements,” he writes. Nevertheless, he awards it three stars, possibly for good intentions. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer also observes that director Niccol may be raising some interesting points about the culture’s obsession with youth and class warfare, he “doesn’t really know where to go with these ideas, falling back on the obvious and the repetitive, and on the creakier conventions of the thriller genre.” And Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times writes that the film’s “clever idea” left her with many thoughts of “If only …” Beyond the premise, she concludes, the film lacks “the kind of moments that actually matter, the ones that are so gripping that you want desperately for time to stop — to savor them, to feel the fear, the passion, the regret. Ah, well … maybe next time.”