What an ingenious idea this movie has working for it. What if Earth's social classes and economy took a turn for the worse and in a dystopian future time was money, literally. All humans have a glowing, green clock on their forearms which shows how much time you have left alive. The poor have very little while the rich have a lot. If the poor want to buy a cup of coffee, it costs 2-5 minutes and hopefully you get paid in even more time at the end of the day. If the rich want to play blackjack or live dangerously by arm wrestling (you can exchange time just by shaking hands), then they can feel free to bet a couple hundred years. The catch is that everyone's body stops aging at 25. The movie is reminiscent of a world the result of an economic crisis, but there are hints at there even being issues of population control.
Fun behind-the-scenes trivia- it should be noted there was the possibility of a lawsuit claiming that Harlan Ellison had originally thought of the idea, but Mr. Ellison determined that wasn't so. Either way, writer/director Andrew Niccol (writer of The Truman Show and writer/director of Gattaca, Simone, and Lord of War) has a lot of ground to explore with this unique basis for a sci-fi thriller, but sadly the great idea does not lead to a great execution.
The story follows Will Sallis (Justin Timberlake) who works in a factory in the ghetto as he struggles to end each shift with more hours on his clock than there are in a day. After a lucky encounter with a man (Matt Bomer) who gives Will 116 years, someone close to Will perishes due to neglegience (something I don't quite get- more in a second) so he heads to another district to target the rich and take them for all the time they are worth. He finds himself encountering a banker (Vincent Kartheiser) and his daughter (Amanda Seyfried) as well as a Time Keeper (Cillian Murphy) who are cops that handle all time-related crimes.
Something I don't buy into is the emotional distance and coldness that everyone seems to have here. The man who gives Will his time does kill himself so we get it, not everyone is happy with this society. Yet when Will experiences the loss of a loved one, I don't quite see the connection with going after the rich. Sure they are to blame for conditions, but how about the bus driver and the insensitive passengers whom are also persecuted by the elite? This helps to really point at what I didn't care for about the movie in that it is simply an allegory without much of a soul to it. The movie has all of these cool ideas and then the narrative never moves past the idea and instead becomes a car-chase and shoot-'em-up movie and at least cinematographer Roger Deakins makes those moments look nice.
The film at least has a great cast led by the commanding Timberlake as well as a ton of confident supporting players and yet I can't help but feel very underwhelmed by it all. The movie doesn't do much with it's themes and devolves rather quickly with no sense of wonder or suspense.