Oct 30 2011

Time Bandits


If you take your life extension seriously and you take your action adventure SF movies literally, you will probably want to have your hour and forty nine minutes refunded after seeing In Time.  And while there are better ways to spend your time, even if you live in a world where that gross cliche “time is money” hasn’t been literalized, In Time is damn stupid fun with its heart in the right place even as its medicine is in the wrong one.

The basic concept — if you haven’t already heard it — is that some time in the future, we’ll be able to freeze aging at 25.  But, according to the movie logic, if everyone were just allowed to live at age 25 unto infinity, the world would be too crowded so “many must die so a few can be immortal.”  So all but an elite class must earn time the way they now must earn money — through labor, hustles and/or high interest loans.  When they run out of time, they expire… right there in the street.  (And if this isn’t upsetting enough, our heroes’ (Justin Timberlake) mom and even his grandmother and even his great great grandmother could end up looking like Olivia Wilde forever if she earns enough time which — with the passing of enough of said time — might lead to an Oedipean Epoch and I’m thinking David Lynch could direct a much more interesting and creepier In Time 2.)

Director Andrew Niccol is the guy who made Gattaca, often praised for being about as close to flawlessly realistic as a science fiction flick is likely to get.  This time around, though, he’s giving us broad strokes perhaps aimed more at reflecting the anxieties and perditions of extreme class distinctions in our current actual world and at concretizing the way most contemporary humans must sell and buy their time to remain alive.   All of it is driven forward by an exciting Bonnie and Clyde meets Patty Hearst storyline (robbing Daddy’s “Time Banks” and distributing free time to the poor.  Beats cheese any day.) that is so seductive it will take your mind off of the obvious holes in this movie’s imaginal world, although I must pick on one thing.  Virtually everybody in the movie is not only 25 or less, they’re almost all beautiful, particularly in Zone 4 where the rich people live.  At first, I thought this was a nice touch — with plastic surgery and so forth growing ever more sophisticated. But then there’s a scene in which Amanda Seyfried’s character talks about the day she reached 25. She tells Timberlake she looked in the mirror and knew that this would be her face forever. I mean, that isn’t even the face the actress Amanda Seyfried was born to.  Oh well, in a movie set far off into the future that doesn’t have any apparent robots or AIs; that seems to require factory workers; and that has people driving around in 1970s cars, it’s probably a small point. And don’t get me wrong.  My emotions rose and fell with Timberlake as he “occupies Zone 4” — and after some fighting and hiding and chasing and almost fucking — he and Amanda distribute Time Power To The People.

Finally… for those of us who know a few things about the actual science of life extension…

There is this fairly popular tropes in play that hyperlongevity will be only for the rich and therefor it is a badness. At the risk of being dreary, I’m thinking there could perhaps be more emphasis on health extension so that people get the point that slowing and stopping aging is about slowing or stopping the diseases related to aging… which is just about everything that makes us sick, given the fact that our immune systems get weaker as we age.

You probably wouldn’t run into a lot of people opposing a passionate advocacy for eliminating cancer or diabetes or heart disease on the grounds that only rich people would be treated. Rather, these same people would be working and struggling for a world in which most or all people would have access to this next step in health care.  I’ll leave it at that because It really is that simple.

On the other hand, it may indeed be necessary to rob the Time Banks in the interest of free time.