Since his debut in '97, writer/director Niccol has explored the realm of sci-fi without actually making what most people would call a "sci-fi flick."
From the genetically flawless (Gattaca) through to artificial people (S1m0ne) and reality TV gone extreme (The Truman Show), he has given, which in other hands could have been Summer Blockbusters, small, thoughtful movies that want to challenge rather than dazzle.
This latest "future ain't so bright" story from him doesn't buck the trend not one bit...
With no catch-up or back story for the audience to get their heads around, the future of non-ageing after 25 and working for time rather than money in order to stay alive, is quickly covered in the opening sequence. The most effective tool used is the role of Timberlake's mother, played by Wilde, who at first glance appears to be his girlfriend until it's mentioned it is her second time celebrating her 25th birthday. This distinctly Logan's Run-esque idea of youthful inhabitants only populating the planet has so much potential yet Niccol refuses to explore any of it. The closest he comes to this is when Timberlake meets Seyfried for the first time and is presented with the issue that he doesn't know if she is either the mother, wife or daughter of the uber-rich gent that he's just met.
Instead, he opts for a chase movie where the chase is so undramatic and pedestrian that you long for anything to happen upon the screen. Even with Murphy's Matrix rip-off (dresses like Neo but walks and talks like Agent Smith) magically prowling just one step behind our mis-understood hero, there's no urgency or worry for the fugitives on the run from the timekeepers. With no fleshing out of characterisation nor logical steps to their development, you don't end up worried enough to care about them. This tied up with dialogue so corny that even George Lucas would cringe - "you saved me the moment you walked into my life," - drives a formidable wedge between the audience and the cast with time reference puns hammering the nails into the coffin one-by-one.
Everything seems on a go-slow which baring in mind that this is all about time and how little people have of it, is the wrong pacing for the storyline. The wanted couple never seem in danger of being caught and then when the plot moves away from Logan's Run and The Island into Robin Hood and Bonnie & Clyde, you can't join them on their quest for justice for all, because, quite frankly, who could be bothered? There's just no time for In Time.
UK release date: 01.11.11