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In Time

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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.


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