NEW Zealand-born screenwriter Andrew Niccol has consistently conjured dark clouds with his dystopian visions of life in the 21st century and beyond.
His debut feature Gattaca starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman cast a chill with its depiction of a society determined by genetic superiority.
Niccol deservedly won an Oscar for The Truman Show, which took the concept of a Big Brother reality TV series to chilling extremes, and then he suggested that troublesome Hollywood stars could be replaced by digital actors in the comedy S1m0ne.
For his latest film, which he also directs, Niccol imagines an emotionally-starved globe in which money has become obsolete and the currency is time.
People are engineered to age until they reach 25 years old, then a timer, embedded in their arm, begins to tick down second by second to their demise.
You can earn, steal or inherit more time to extend your life expectancy, leading to a vast divide between the haves and have-nots.
The wealthy are essentially immortal: forever 25 years old in physical appearance, with centuries on their body clocks to squander at leisure.
Meanwhile, the poor literally live from one day to the next, unsure if they will be able to claw back enough minutes to see another sunrise.
Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in the ghetto with his mother (Olivia Wilde), making ends meet by working at a factory with his best friend Borel (Johnny Galecki).
During a night out, Will has a chance encounter with handsome, yet suicidal rich man Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer).
“The day comes when you’ve had enough. Your mind’s spent even if your body is not,” laments Henry, who donates 100 years of his time to Will’s body clock.
Granted access to the most exclusive parts of the city, Will learns the truth about how Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser) and the men in power manipulate the populace for their own gain.
Will vows to bring down the corrupt system forging an unlikely alliance with Philippe’s rebellious daughter Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried).
Meanwhile, time thief Fortis (Alex Pettyfer) and timekeeper Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy) both hunt for Will, determined to take back the time that Henry gave away.
In Time is a neat concept, stylishly executed, with some well-orchestrated action sequences to paper over a few cracks in Niccol’s logic.
Timberlake is an appealing hero, defiantly proclaiming, “No one should be immortal if even one person has to die”, between taking off his shirt and kindling smouldering screen chemistry with Seyfried, whose role is underwritten.
Kartheiser and Pettyfer are two-dimensional villains, but Murphy brings depth to his hunter, who takes his role very seriously and will not allow Will to upset the status quo.
Niccol’s film holds our interest, building to a satisfying if improbable close that ensures we don’t feel like we have wasted 109 minutes.