IN TIME (PG-13 for violence, strong profanity, some sexuality & partial nudity): This is a far departure from writer/director Andrew Niccoli's quirky "The Truman Show" idea with its focus on society's fascination with reality shows. Here the obsession is with the emphasis on perpetual youth (and, contrarily, in some cases, a reflection on Talulah Bankhead's quote at 40, "Dahling, I've done everything twice and I'm bored with it.")
In a futuristic society, everyone stops aging at age 25 with a year's life, shown by the luminous numbers on one's arm, to continue. Money loses its value to time; a person must pay for everything with time & add to an individual time bank by earning or stealing it. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a common laborer, is awarded a century of time when a stranger who no longer wants to live is willing to turn it over to him: "When you've had enough, you want to die," he says, and so he does. (They clasp arms as a clicking sound indicates the time tranfsfer; we see numbers climbing on one arm while they drop on the other.)
Unfortunately, Will is blamed for the death, goes on the lam. During his flight he observes that the rich have unlimited time while the poor must struggle by the hour to hang onto their lives. He kidnaps (sort of, since she seems perfectly happy to be with him) the hot socialite Sylvia Weis (Amanda Seyfried) - daughter of a wealthy time-bank loan shark.
And that's when the innovative structure breaks down. The pair become Robin Hoods, robbing from the Weis time-banks to give to the poor, all the while being chased by a passel of cops & Weis gorillas in sun glasses & leather coats. It turns into a cheap imitation of a crime/action thriller, with one ridiculous action stunt after another: mysteriously changing clothes from scene to scene, doing a neat turn in speeding backward through L.A. traffic, though he's never driven a car before. Interest lags as the scenes grow sillier, right to an unimpressive bit during final credits.
Sadly, the characters are all two-dimensional stereotypes. With her Valley Girl demeanor, Seyfried is far from a sophisticated, spoiled rich woman, with heavy make-up & stark hair style almost concealing the fact that she's not even as pretty as we're expecting her to be. Timberlake does his best to portray a vigorous, angry guy in the Steve McQueen mold, but there's little to his character to make us want to believe in him.
Roger Deekens' camera work is remarkable, almost worth watching the film for it, to appreciate the way he casts his city into a variety of moods from blue-grey shots down expansive highways to flushed browns along dilapidated inner city streets at night. His use of dramatic lighting pays tribute to cameraman James Wong Howe, the genius of the 30s & 40s. And his wide screen shots are always classic panoramas in beautiful compositions. But the stunning visuals are hardly enough to compensate for a bumbling script full of trite characters & situations, and silly coincidences that appear to be an unintentional mockery of better action flicks. (Grade: C-)