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In Time: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

In Time (2011) movie poster In Time

Theatrical Release: October 28, 2011 / Running Time: 109 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Writer/Director: Andrew Niccol

Cast: Amanda Seyfried (Sylvia Weis), Justin Timberlake (Will Salas), Cillian Murphy (Raymond Leon), Vincent Kartheiser (Philippe Weis), Olivia Wilde (Rachel Salas), Matt Bomer (Henry Hamilton), Johnny Galecki (Borel), Collins Pennie (Timekeeper Jaeger), Toby Hemingway (Timekeeper Korsqq), Brendan Miller (Kolber), Yaya DaCosta (Greta), Alex Pettyfer (Fortis), Shyloh Oostwald (Maya), August Emerson (Levi), Ethan Peck (Constantin), Bella Heathcote (Michele Weis), Sasha Pivovarova (Clara), La Monde Byrd (Minuteman Rado)

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We've all heard the expression "time is money", but in the sci-fi thriller In Time, that's exactly what it is.
The film is set in a dystopian future where time is the currency. Once you turn 25, your physical appearance is locked in and you are given one year. You add to that with work and subtract from that with living costs and simply living. Your balance is displayed on your forearm, ticking down every second. Time funds can be transferred from one person to another with a firm forearm grip.

There is tremendous disparity in this world: while the wealthy can live practically forever, the poor are always on the brink of death. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is among the poor. This factory worker, who has looked 25 for three years, lives day to day, as does his mother (Olivia Wilde) who is celebrating her 50th birthday, though you'd never know looking at her.

Fugitives Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) call in their demands to a timekeeper on their trail.

In his ghetto's seedy local bar, Will comes to the aid of Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer), a world-weary man of 105 with another 100+ years counting down on his arm. Though those riches make him the target of gangsters known as minutemen (led by Alex Pettyfer), the years mean nothing to Henry and he transfers all but a few minutes of it to a sleeping Will, effectively "timing himself out."

Will's newfound wealth, meanwhile, makes him a marked man. He gets a ride across several time zones, paying the increasingly steep tolls to cross the rarely penetrable socio-economic lines. In the luxurious district of New Greenwich, Will makes the acquaintance of loaded centenarian Philippe Weis ("Mad Men"'s Vincent Kartheiser), with whom he gambles and adds to his prosperity. But timekeepers, the cops of this world (led by Cillian Murphy), are on Will's trail and considering him a suspect in Henry's death. Drained of his time and returned to poverty, Will takes bold action by kidnapping Weis' 27-year-old daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) at gunpoint.

On the run from the law with a substantial reward out for their capture, Will and Sylvia try to do something about the economic inequality, from robbing her father's bank to fueling the clocks of the destitute residents of Will's hometown.

Veteran timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) is determined to nab the outlaws. In the future, gangsters like Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) are called minutemen, but they still wear pinstripe suits and speak in British accents.

I fondly and vividly recall the Friday afternoon in November 1997 when I saw Gattaca in theaters. It was a powerful experience unlike anything I had seen before and to this day, I consider it one of the best science fiction movies I've encountered.
The promise that film held for its young first-time writer-director, New Zealander Andrew Niccol, has largely gone unrealized in the fifteen years since. Niccol wrote the ingenious, Oscar-nominated screenplay for The Truman Show. Then he took his time to get back in the director's chair, coming up with the poorly-received 2002 satire S1m0ne starring Al Pacino. Niccol got a story credit on Steven Spielberg's The Terminal. His third film as director, 2005's Lord of War, didn't make all that much noise and drew mixed reviews, although it is now a high priority on my quest to see the many films of Nicolas Cage.

In Time is Niccol's fourth credit as sole writer/director and it returns him to the socially-conscious futuristic sci-fi drama of his debut. Sadly, the results are considerably less stunning here. Part of the problem lies in casting. Timberlake has proven charismatic in supporting roles, but he makes for an unconvincing hero. Like Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia, Timberlake has a muscular physique to show off in shirtless scenes but that is far from enough to accept him as an take-charge action guy, even with his "Mickey Mouse Club" and *NSYNC origins distant memories. Despite his curious second billing, the entire movie rests on Timberlake's shoulders and they just aren't strong enough to hold it up. His lack of screen presence seems to wear off on the ordinarily good Amanda Seyfried, who seems like she's ready to break out in giggles most of the time here.

Admittedly, fits of laughter are not an inconceivable reaction to Niccol's screenplay, not only because it attempts to maintain some levity but also because it is absurdly on the nose. A little subtlety would have gone a long way and Niccol provided that in spades in his Gattaca and Truman Show scripts. Here, it's like a moment can't go by without him reminding us how the time is money idea works and having characters refer to time. Is that part of the abundant social commentary, suggesting that people are overly fixated on finances? That might be a small part of it, but it more so seems to be the product of uncharacteristically clunky writing, which places plot way ahead of personality. We get very little insight into what Will and Sylvia would choose to do in a world where time and injustice were not on their minds. A brief skinny dip and a hotel room game of PG-13 strip poker appear to be the extent of their humanity. Then it's back to car chases and running and glancing at the dwindling forearm and coming up with a way to refuel. The movie is never dull, it's just a lot less sharp and meaningful than it should be. The numerous plot holes that arise in reflection certainly don't help either.

All the time in the world doesn't make wealthy centenarian Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) especially compassionate. Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) finds herself more trigger-happy than intended.

Not of all the cast members undermine the substantive ideas of Niccol's script. Murphy is compelling as the dedicated, trench-coated cop who's faintly reminscent of Loren Dean's Gattaca character. And Vincent Kartheiser is very good as well, playing the role as if Pete Campbell had found the secret to immortality and endless wealth. On the other hand, young pretty boy Pettyfer is miscast; he tries to channel Clive Owen vocally, but he's never intimidating as intended and how is it that he's already earning an "and" credit at 21?

Though easily becoming Niccol's highest-grossing film as director, In Time didn't break out enough to alter his commercially challenged reputation, at least not domestically, where its modest $37.5 million take was just shy of its $40 M budget. Surprisingly, the film fared quite a bit better in the rest of the world, grossing over $100 M in foreign territories.

In Time didn't waste time to reach home video; just three months after opening in theaters, the film hit stores last week in a DVD and the 2-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack we review here.

By the way, Niccol isn't taking his usual time off; he is about to start shooting another sci-fi film, The Host, which he adapted from the book... by Twilight's Stephenie Meyer. It's scheduled to open in theaters March 2013.

In Time: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, Spanish)
Both: Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 31, 2012
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-25 & DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Holographic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in standalone DVD and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Fox's Blu-ray presentation seems flawless to me. The 2.35:1 picture is razor-sharp, immaculately clean, and boasts top-notch detail and colors. Niccol's writing and directing here may not be what it has been in the past, but the production design, yellow and green-tinted night visuals, and more natural daytime sights remain pretty splendid. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is equally dazzling, dealing crisp dialogue, strong atmosphere, and tons of good directionality, especially in scenes of bloodless gunfire.

Though noticeably less striking than their hi-def counterparts, the DVD's anamorphic picture and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound were both up to par in sampling. The transfer reflects more than ideal compression, but as this is the kind of movie that Fox previously would have given simply a digital copy, the DVD is just gravy.

Justin Timberlake and co-stars improvise in character in the backstory mockumentary "The Minutes." The most significant deleted scene features this stand-off inside a rich citizen's home.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The modest slate of all-HD extras begins with "The Minutes" (16:35). This "backstory" mockumentary collects improvisational, in-character comments from the cast. It tries to flesh out the film's mythology, but it's pretty cheesy.

Next comes a generous supply of ten deleted/extended scenes (12:52). They are presented in finished quality (although sometimes with marker dots where glowing green time counter effects were to be added) and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Little of the content is remarkable. The highlights include Will and Sylvia taking their Robin Hood convictions and Bonnie & Clyde bravado to a private residence, a brief flashback of Will's father, one added chase scene, and more looks at Amanda Seyfried in her underwear.

The Sneak Peek submenu provides individual and group access to trailers for This Means War, Immortals, Haywire, Machine Gun Preacher, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and There Be Dragons. The first two play automatically at disc insertion.

Like the film itself, the theatrical trailer really hammers home the time is money premise with lines like this. Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried bring sexy back to the DVD main menu montage.

In Time's own theatrical trailer (2:23) is graciously provided.

The standout BD-Live extra is IMDb Live Lookup, which allows you to identify actors (with a performance picture) as they appear and view their filmographies while the movie plays at reduced or full size.
Other IMDb data on the film is also accessible. It's nothing you can't get on your computer, but it's a nice little touch that is well-implemented. You can also stream and download Fox trailers and BD bonus feature excerpts via the studio's standard "What's New" section.

After a couple of years of doing three-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy sets primarily for family films, Fox has expanded the use of combo packs but cut back the design to the two discs that Warner and Paramount have long favored: one Blu-ray and one barebones DVD/digital copy hybrid. The DVD here lacks the bonus features of the one sold separately, which is merely the collection of deleted/extended scenes. It also goes without trailers. The absences are not to punish the forward-thinking but to clear up space for iTunes and Windows Media files of the film for transfer to computer and portable device. Almost half of the disc space goes to those two digital copies, upping the DVD-Video compression a bit beyond standard levels.

The Blu-ray and DVD menus provide an ordinary montage set to a looped excerpt of pulse-pounding score. The Blu-ray disc takes a long time to load, but it makes up for that by supporting bookmarks on the film and resuming playback flawlessly. Gladly, the BD-Live connection seems to no longer trouble playback of Fox Blu-rays on Sony players.

The eco-friendly Blu-ray case is snuggly topped by a cardboard slipcover that boasts holographic effects on all four sides. One insert supplies digital copy directions and activation code. Another promotes the In Time: The Game Apple app.

In "In Time", time is money and people wear their always-decreasing bank account balance on their forearm.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Andrew Niccol's In Time has a number of interesting ideas about society and the distribution of wealth, but the movie and its cast have trouble expressing them in a satisfying or subtle way. That keeps what might be thoughtful sci-fi from feeling a lot more like mediocre action. It's reasonably exciting and fairly stylish, but ultimately less than the film it wants to be.

Fox's Blu-ray treats the film to an excellent presentation, a light but adequate collection of bonus features, and the versatility of three formats. Still, this is strictly rental fare and even then only if you're passionate about sci-fi, Niccol, or the cast.

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In Time Songs List: Nickodemus and Quantic featuring Hector "Tempo Alomar" - "Mi Swing Es Tropical (Zeb's Reggae Remix)", MC Ghostman - "Trucha", Simone Benyacar - "With Time", Bebel Gilberto - "So Nice (Summer Samba)", Patron Saints of Jazz - "Escalator", Patron Saints of Jazz "Underneath Your Spell", Nouvelle Vague - "In a Manner of Speaking", Julianna Raye - "Leaves Before Autumn"

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Reviewed February 8, 2012.



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