Adam Cook’s review:
There is a kernel of a great idea here, a genuinely novel distopian world from a writer-director with a good track record of making thought provoking sci-fi with a mass appeal. So the question is, where did it all go wrong?
Budget is clearly a problem as evident by the uninspired sets and some truly terrible CGI. Secondly, whilst the idea of time as currency has potential it is never really explored in any interesting or meaningful way. Instead we get a pretty standard chase movie (with hints of Robin Hood and Bonnie and Clyde) and the usual rich-poor dystopia divide which has been tackled in a thousand other, often better, science-fiction films.
The nature of the story dictates that the cast be young. Whilst this provides some intriguing surface detail (parents look as old as their children etc.) it raises issues with casting. Justin Timberlake may look the part but he just isn’t a good enough actor, particularly in a lead role such as this. Although they may never physically age beyond 25-years it does not mean they should not emotionally mature. Yet, you never truly believe any of the characters are older than they look. Perhaps this is a fundamental flaw with the concept but it is most likely down to poor casting and direction. Sadly, the few good actors are relegated to side roles or undeveloped characters, particularly Cillian Murphy and Vincent Kartheiser. But all good sci-fi is not only about the hook (replicants in Blade Runner or no more babies in Children of Men) but about the story that drives them and this is where In Time really falls short. For a film about the importance of time and making every second count it is a surprisingly boring film. This is not helped by flat one-dimensional characters that you struggle to believe in, the pedestrian direction or the frankly laughable ways Niccol adds fake drama by cutting the time certain characters have.
A waste of potential and, if you excuse the pun, a waste of your time.