** (out of four)
Good news, weirdos: In the near-futuristic dystopia of “In Time,” you can finally fulfill your dream of having a wife, a mother-in-law and a daughter who all look equally young and gorgeous. In this world, no one can physically age past age 25 and you’re given only one year to live after that. It’s up to you to earn more time, which passes as currency in these parts. That will be four minutes for a cup of coffee, sir, and 59 years for the car of your dreams. Plus tax.
Will (Justin Timberlake) has lived day-to-day since he turned 25 three years ago, but shortly after a 105-year-old man (Matt Bomer) who's had enough living gives all his time to Will, Will’s 50-year-old mom (that old, wrinkly hag Olivia Wilde) runs out of time before her son can share any of his.
Soon a cop/timekeeper (Cillian Murphy) hunts Will as a murder suspect and a gangster/minuteman (Alex Pettyfer) hunts anyone with time to steal. Will kidnaps a wealthy businessman’s daughter (Amanda Seyfried) and ultimately sees himself as a sort of Robin Hood, if Robin Hood intended to break down class-separating “Time Zones” and distribute free time as housed in cases that kinda look like passport stamps got it on with 8-tracks.
Echoing “Children of Men,” “The Adjustment Bureau” and his own “Gattaca” (just to name a few), writer-director Andrew Niccol loves this sort of society-bent-by-a-few-degrees parable. But the ways “In Time” works as an allegory for the selfishness of the rich and the urgent chaos of the poor fail on screen. It stands to reason that a society genetically engineering its citizens to stop aging could engineer its people to turn off the freaking neon green light on their arm that displays their remaining time.
The process by which people give/take/steal time often involves merely touching arms and thinking about how much time will be transferred, which is about as precise as the mind-driven arm wrestling matches in which people confusingly fight each other for their time.
Surely there is a lot to say about how people’s lives would change if they literally worked for their survival, but Niccol’s idea bests his execution. (Timberlake’s lead performance is likewise inconsistent.) Let’s absolutely explore a society where people’s humanity is tested by a constant reminder of their own dwindling mortality.
But let’s not do it with an overstuffed story about a world in which everyone, essentially, walks around with their bank accounts and oxygen supplies in their pockets.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the Umpais@tribune.com. @mattpais