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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

In Time

By
John P. McCarthy
Source: Catholic News Service

The dystopia sketched out in the sci-fi thriller "In Time" (Fox) is intriguing and, theoretically at least, more than a little chilling. In the near future, each member of society has been genetically engineered to stop aging when they reach 25, after which they'll live for only one more year unless they can add more time to their biological clock.

With seconds, minutes, hours and days serving as currency, the wealthy can live forever while the less privileged must hustle to acquire time by any means necessary. An LED display on each person's forearm reveals how much time remains before they expire. Units of chronology are up- and downloaded via scanners and can be transferred between individuals when they clasp arms in a particular way.

The population is segregated into "time zones" according to how much time citizens have left. Mobility between the zones is severely restricted, and the cost of living is kept artificially high. This economic system pits elites against the majority, and, though the rich also fear accidental death, everyone must be vigilant to avoid being robbed of their most precious resource.

It's a scenario ripe for exploitation in every sense, and yet a good premise does not a good movie make. More stylish than substantive, "In Time" suffers from artificial execution and a pun-heavy script. Feeding on contemporary dissatisfaction with the world economic system, it offers a morally praiseworthy response to the challenges it imagines -- but can't shake an absurdly glossy, unreal air.

"In Time" plays like a magazine fashion spread with a social conscience. Think H.G. Wells meets designer-turned-director Tom Ford.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol, who penned the script for "The Truman Show," dwells on surfaces and tries to distract viewers from analyzing the details of his premise by sprinkling in dialogue that demonizes Darwin and evolutionary theory. Overall, the effort amounts to slick posing and doesn't have much emotional or intellectual heft.

Justin Timberlake plays hero Will Salas, a factory worker in a ghetto sector called Dayton, located east of downtown Los Angeles, where the have-nots scrounge for minutes to stay alive. After protecting a wealthy stranger from thugs, Will receives a gift of time and, suddenly flush, makes his way into the precinct of New Greenwich where he encounters mogul Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and his daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).

Suspected of murder and guilty of disrupting the economic balance, Will is pursued by the de facto police in the person of a "Timekeeper" named Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy). Eluding capture by kidnapping Sylvia, Will returns to Dayton and the fugitive pair launches a crime spree aimed at redistributing wealth.

"In Time" has its heart in the right place, that is, on the side of those seemingly unable to change a system that takes advantage of them (in contemporary parlance, on the side of the 99 percent). It should be lauded for championing an altruistic hero who puts the notion of charity and philanthropy into action, albeit with a Robin Hood twist.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to shake the idea that "In Time" is just an excuse for Hollywood to make a film in which no one over the age of 30 need be cast.

The film contains nongraphic action violence, including gunplay, a suicide, a glimpse of rear female nudity, several nonmarital sexual situations, at least one instance each of profanity and rough language, several crude terms and some innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John P. McCarthy is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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