When it comes to the films of Andrew Niccol, I'm split on thinking of him as the great artistic filmmaker many of his admirers enthusiastically wish him to be. Since 'Gattaca,' the New Zealand-born screenwriter and director has garnered himself a strong following, but I'm not entirely convinced it's all that deserving. Aside from a few pockets of inspiring storytelling like 'The Truman Show' and 'Lord of War,' the latter of which he also directed, his movies don't strike me in any truly remarkable way. And this includes 'Gattaca,' which I see as merely good sci-fi entertainment. After watching Niccol's 'In Time,' however, I'm starting to rethink that assessment, because at least the former has more substance and explores its themes with stylish subtlety.
As torn as I may be about Niccol's work, one thing is for certain. I don't care much for 'In Time,' a dystopian caper where time becomes a commodity, something which viewers become all-too aware of while watching this. On paper, it makes for an intriguing concept, but after setting up the basic premise, which is essentially a retooling of 'Logan's Run,' the rest of the movie's 109 minutes are spent squirming in our seats waiting for the clock to run down. The mind begins to wander when such a short span of time ultimately feels like a million years. Taking place in the mid-22nd Century, beautiful 1960s cars are apparently in great abundance and equipped with great high-tech gadgets, yet no one appears to have a cell phone although payphones make a popular comeback in the future.
Niccol intends his film as an allegory to our current economic woes, but appears to have forgotten the rules of using such symbolic representations. Namely, don't make the whole thing so damn obvious. The story is loaded with constant references to the disparaging differences of the "have" and "have-nots." He pushes with a very heavy-hand the message of some clandestine criminal activity behind the ever-increasing price of living, but overlooks how exactly the offense is being committed by corporate magnates like Philippe Weiss (Vincent Kartheiser of 'Mad Men'). Niccol almost cleverly hints at the idea of redistributing the wealth, but that, too, turns into an unmistakable moral when the plot suddenly changes into a 'Bonnie and Clyde' retread with a Robin Hood edge.
The script, which was also written by Niccol, comes off as if designed for the purpose of coming up with as many puns about time as possible. Nearly every line and conversation is inundated with some witty quip that reminds us of the amount of time we're wasting listening to the endless dribble. Justin Timberlake's working-class kid from the ghetto lives day-by-day counting the minutes of every hour. Amanda Seyfried, who looks the same age as her mother and grandmother, comes from a family with all the time in the world, but inexplicably feels . . . imprisoned by it? Cillian Murphy, looking like the oldest person in the world, is a middle-aged Timekeeper pursuing the couple so as to ironically maintain the status quo, despite showing doubts of the system he protects, which is even more ironic because that aspect goes absolutely nowhere.
The real sad thing about 'In Time' is that I actually don't disagree with any of the themes being presented. Only, I don't want to be bashed in the head with the same ideals I already possess. It's not entertaining to watch a movie plead and beg to be the official mouthpiece of the 99 Percent. It's quite boring, in fact, especially when it's this blatant and transparent. It's a cool concept on paper, but Andrew Niccol doesn't use the time he's given in executing it properly or compellingly.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'In Time' to Blu-ray as two-disc combo pack. Housed inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase with a glossy, cardboard slipcover, the first is a Region A locked, BD50 disc while the second is a DVD-9 with a downloadable digital copy on the opposing panel. At startup, viewers can skip through a series of trailers before being greeted by the standard main menu options with music and full-motion clips.
Shot entirely on digital HD cameras, 'In Time' debuts with an excellent 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that shines for a majority of the movie's runtime.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the picture is razor-sharp, with clean, distinct lines in nearly every scene. Viewers can make out individual hairs on Seyfried's obvious wig; clothing is very well-defined; and buildings are precisely detailed, exposing a clear disparity between the two different time zones.
Contrast is comfortably bright and black levels are accurate, giving the image an attractive, cinematic luster with good dimensionality. Some poorly-lit interiors and a couple nighttime sequences, on the other hand, ruin a bit of that sheen and suddenly go flat while also obscuring the finer details within the shadows. Roger Deakins' photography is interestingly stylized, leaning heavily to steely blues and depressing grays in Dayton, but a few areas of New Greenwich display warm secondary colors with strong saturation levels.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is equally excellent but never truly makes a lasting impression outside of Craig Armstrong's score. His music opens up the soundfield and extends it to the rear speakers, nicely filling the room and enveloping the listener. A few atmospherics also employ the surrounds with some convincing effect, but it's not always consistent. Most of the action is focused in the front where the lossless mix generates a wide, well-balanced soundstage with fluid movement between channels. Vocals are precise and intelligible at all times in the center of the screen. Dynamic range is remarkably clean and sharp, delivering some surprisingly realistic clarity to certain scenes. Gunshots and car crashes are perfect examples, accompanied by a punchy low-end that adds power to the movie's more exciting moments.
A couple supplements are shared with the DVD release.
Pretty much ignored by audiences at the box office, Andrew Niccol's 'In Time' is a dystopian vision of the ever-widening wealth gap and class warfare. With the Occupy Movement clearly on its mind — and possibly, even its target audience — the futuristic sci-fi feature starring Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried will have audiences keeping track of the runtime rather than forgetting about it. The Blu-ray arrives with excellent picture quality and a great audio presentation. Overall supplements are divided evenly between the formats, but the high-def package offers the better deal though it only makes for a decent rental.