A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi adventure features a fair bit of violence, twentysomething sexuality, and heavy themes about social equality and injustice that may not be appropriate for tweens interested in seeing a Justin Timberlake movie. Language includes one "f--k," as well as "s--t," "damn," "ass"; violent scenes feature close-range shootings (mostly bloodless), people dropping dead when their clocks reach zero, and one suicide. Sex is implied rather than shown, but there's a skinny-dipping scene with a glimpse of a nude bottom, as well as strip poker and some skimpy lingerie. There's a Robin Hood-esque theme to the second half of the movie, but it's wrapped around a shallower Bonnie-and-Clyde vibe of "let's have fun robbing from the rich." Despite the movie's mixed messages, one lesson is loud and clear: Don't waste your time.
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What's the story?
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in a futuristic world in which everyone ages until 25 -- and then, the instant they hit that milestone, their internal clock is turned on like a glowing counter on their forearms, and they must work to earn each additional minute, hour, and year of their lives. Will and his mother, Rachel (Olivia Wilde), live in Dayton, the "poor" time zone in which everyone lives minute to minute; one night, after Will helps a wealthy man flee the zone's biggest time thief, the mysterious rich fellow explains how the rich are immortal, while the poor die in the streets. He then gives Will 116 years before committing suicide. Left with more time than anyone in his zone, Will flees to the far posher zone of New Greenwich, where businessmen like Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) are so time-rich that their wives wear gloves so as not to flaunt their millennia. Wanted by the head Timekeeper (Cillian Murphy), Will narrowly escapes the zone with Philippe's daughter, Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), as his hostage. The two embark on a mission to redistribute time and expose the system's injustice.
Is it any good?
The first half of IN TIME is stylish and original and offers just enough action and punny time jokes to be genuinely entertaining without being over the top. Parading an all-star cast of talented actors, led by the always charismatic Timberlake, the movie is by turns a thriller, a treatise on the unfair distribution of wealth, and a Bonnie and Clyde-meets-Robin Hood caper. Parts are particularly poignant, like a gut-wrenching sequence in which Rachel is running as fast as she can to meet Will before she times out, or when Will sweetly gives his best friend (Johnny Galecki) a decade in tribute to their 10 years of friendship.
But once Will and Sylvia hook up to free the time, the movie's many flaws emerge to bog the action down in unanswered questions. Will's dead father's name is brought up several times, but it's never exactly clear why he was such a revolutionary hero. It's also uncertain when or how the time system started -- if it's a genetic alteration introduced in a dystopian future or something created to keep the masses in slave-like conditions. Some of the relationships, especially Sylvia's with her parents, are especially one-dimensional (it's ludicrous that one of the richest men in the world wouldn't give away time for his one and only daughter). Director Andrew Niccol gets points for the movie's fascinating premise and the exciting cast, but he should have done a better job of sustaining the cool concept and tightening up loose ends. This is one of those entertaining-enough sci-fi movies that it's best not to overthink, or else your time will feel wasted.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's sci-fi themes. Why are futuristic storylines so compelling to audiences? Is this vision of the future a positive one or a cautionary tale? Can you think of other movies with futures that seem better to live in than this time-obsessed one?
How do the filmmakers cleverly use "time" to replace wealth in the story? Pick out a few examples of how characters literally mean it when they say "I'm out of time," or "have a minute?"
How is the movie's message of wealth distribution and injustice relevant today?
- In theaters: October 28, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: January 31, 2012
- Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Olivia Wilde
- Director: Andrew Niccol
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and brief strong language
- Last updated: February 4, 2021
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