Justin Timberlake's slick sci-fi tale portrays the rich as evil—even as it covets their wealth
20th Century Fox
In Time wants to be a critique of capitalism. Instead, it ends up an unintentionally searing satire of America's utter inability to critique capitalism. The tagline should be, "Occupy Wall Street ... enjoy the luxury suites."
The film's central metaphor is so sublimely obvious it feels like it's been stolen from a forgotten Star Trek script. In the future, time has replaced money. Everyone stops aging at 25; after that, you get one year in the bank and then you have to earn every second of your life or you die. People have glowing green counters in their arms (called "watches") which count down the lifespan they have left; scanners debit them a few minutes for a cup of coffee or pay them in time for factory work. The wealthy hoard millennia; everybody else, including our hero Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), scrambles as fast as they can after the elusive seconds they need to keep from dying in the street.
The genius of it, of course, is that money is actually life. Money—beautifully fungible money—is food and medical care and living somewhere other than where they dump the toxic chemicals. When a bus driver refuses to give Will's mother Rachael (Olivia Wilde) a break on her fare, and as a result she and literally dies in the street a split second before Will can lend her some time, it's hyperbolic Hollywood melodrama, but it's not a lie. But people do in fact die in the street from lack of money and indifference. The movie deserves at least some props for noticing that.