‘In Time’: The Reviews Are In!

Justin Timberlake's sci-fi thriller has audiences and critics divided.

What do you get when you mix a futuristic, time-as-money/life-or-death premise; a cast of pretty young things, including Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy; plus the sound sci-fi sensibilities of writer/director Andrew Niccol (“Gattaca,” “The Truman Show”) and appropriately stylized cinematography by Roger Deakins (“True Grit,” “The Reader”)? “In Time” is what, a complex, visually appealing sci-fi thriller that has audiences and critics somewhat divided. (The critical collective over at Rotten Tomatoes is at 36 percent rotten, while its audience rating sits at 76 percent fresh.)

Take a few moments to check out the film’s ticking points, if you will, as we sift through the “In Time” reviews!

The Story
“The premise builds on the notion that time is money. In the movie’s dystopian future, where today’s cars have tomorrow’s grilles, time has replaced money. People are born with genetic clocks that stop at the age of 25; after that they’ve got one year in which to beg, borrow, steal or even earn more time. If they don’t, the digital clocks embedded in their forearms dwindle down to zero and they time out, i.e., die. That’s clever, right? But then there are roving gangs called Minute Men (Teddy Boy types out of ‘A Clockwork Orange’) who steal time; the borderline-silly spectacle of almost everyone looking 25; the polemic element of social injustice (the richest of the rich can live forever because they’ve got eons socked away); and the action-adventure element, a clumsy amalgam of Robin Hood, ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ ‘The Avengers,’ ‘Les Misérables,’ ‘Dick Tracy’ (for the color and graphics) and Mr. Niccol’s earlier, and impressive, genetic-engineering opus ‘Gattaca.’ ” — Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

The Sci-Fi Confusion/ High-Concept Factor
“For a movie about the importance of maximizing every second, ‘In Time’ ultimately grows repetitive and wears out its welcome. It’s fast-paced and hugely stylish, though, with its great-looking cast and a mix of gleaming, futuristic visuals and grimy, industrial chic. And it’s a welcome return to the kind of slick sci-fi Niccol made his name on in the mid-’90s with ‘Gattaca’ and ‘The Truman Show’ (which he wrote). But his high-concept premise raises several nagging questions. Why do all the inhabitants of this dystopian world (which happens to look just like downtown Los Angeles and Century City) stop aging at 25, then find themselves with only a year left unless they can buy themselves more? When did this start — what is the purpose? And if Justin Timberlake is so busy working in a factory just so he can afford to live one day to the next, where does he find time to go to the gym?” — Christy Lemire, The Associated Press

The Performances
“There are moguls who are mean and have more time than God, which they bank in banks. Chief among them is a calculatingly evil Philippe Weis (‘Mad Men’s’ Vincent Kartheiser, well-turned-out here too), with daughter Sylvia (Seyfried) the apple of Daddy’s eye — although whether he loves her or time more will be tested. There are regular bad guys, time thieves called Minutemen, led by Alex Pettyfer, who seems to be getting a little too comfortable in bad-guy roles (‘Beastly,’ ‘Tormented’), as Fortis. Meanwhile, inflation is rampant; the class divide is growing ever wider; the world is ripe for an action hero. Cue Timberlake. ‘In Time’ was supposed to turn Timberlake into a superhero, though given the way he manages a fairly massive pop career with an increasingly impressive acting portfolio (‘Social Network’ most recently), that may not be necessary. He brings an interesting sensibility to his characters, Will included, that suggest a complex interior that ‘In Time’ never quite reveals. The same goes for Seyfried (‘Mamma Mia!,’ ‘Red Riding Hood’), who can do a lot more than use those big eyes and sleek lines.” — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

The Final Word, Pro-Con-Pro Style
“There’s plenty to enjoy about that genre standard, which, with the help of the cinematographer Roger Deakins (shooting in digital), Mr. Niccol transforms into a neonoir gaudily washed in green and gold. There’s a memorable night scene when Will and Sylvia sprint across a succession of roofs pursued by Raymond, the camera racing parallel with the couple, the exuberance of their freedom and flight palpable. Here, as in other scenes where Mr. Niccol let his images do the talking, the movie works, despite its wavering tone and slow-and-go energy. But then the characters open their mouths and start going on about minutes and hours, clocks and watches, and their time running out and not having enough time and where’s my time, don’t waste my time, that time will get you killed, brother can you spare some time because, well, I’m all out.” — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“One problem with ‘In Time’ is that it’s more fun to describe than to sit through. Another is that Niccol’s direction of his cast is spotty at best. Timberlake has the steely visage and stubbled cheeks for a rogue hero, but Seyfried, always a watchable presence, has trouble connecting with Sylvia’s inner rebellious streak or, for that matter, lending urgency to her line readings. The film’s crucial failing, though, is that Niccol’s imagination is vigorously literary but not thrillingly cinematic. The movie exhausts its capital about halfway through — devolving, as the Timekeeper tracks the lovers on the run, into a series of car chases and foot races, none of them very spiffily executed. If you’re like me, you will be captivated by the first hour and, after that, impatiently checking your watch.” — Richard Corliss, Time

“Even if ‘In Time’ descends from its gripping and thought-provoking premise into a mediocre chase thriller before it’s over, it’s still pretty damn satisfying to watch in the current climate. Of course the contradictions of capitalism are just as present in eras of widespread affluence as in eras of recession or stagnation, but we see them a hell of a lot more clearly at the moment. Niccol is dramatizing the human costs of the concentration of wealth, expressed by Philippe in the film with the formula that some must die so others can live forever. Somewhere Marx quips that capital is immortal even if its possessors are not; this movie’s imaginative leap is to conflate the two and build a world where even death, the great leveler in human affairs, can be bought off.” — Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com

Check out everything we’ve got on “In Time.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit MTVMoviesBlog.com.