Friday, 25 November 2011
This film is thoroughly engaging and works well on at least two levels. The basic premise is that everyone has been genetically modified so that they stop ageing on their 25th birthday. This makes the film confusing in that everyone looks the same age - even though some people have reached a three digit age! Everyone has a clock implanted under their skin that counts down the amount they have left to live. On their 25th birthday they are given 1 year and when the clock reaches zero they simply drop down dead. They can earn, beg, borrow or steal time to increase their longevity but everyone needs to 'spend' time simply to live - a cup of coffee costs 4 minutes for example.
Time is the only currency in circulation and as with anything that denotes wealth there are the haves and the have nots. The film works on its first level because it really does prompt questions about what value we place on time. The central character Will (Justin Timberlake) is 25 plus 3, his mother Rachel (the ubiquitous Olivia Wilde) is 25 plus 25. They live and work in the ghetto where they rarely have more than one day credit on their clocks. They are forced to go to loan companies and pawn shops to get more time but the interest rates are high and many people are unable to make the repayments - and so die.
We learn that this is how the ghetto works because it is an effective way of controlling the size of the population. To reduce the number of people - simple raise prices to make accommodation and basic commodities unaffordable. This is the second way in which the film works - as a commentary on the way wealth is distributed and the inequality of inheritance for both the haves and the have nots.
To travel out of the ghetto requires payment of huge blocks of time - a month at each transition. The film makes good use of its Los Angeles setting by contrasting the less desirable areas with the well-heeled lush downtown. As the story develops it becomes a tale of liberation of the oppressed. Street wise and well intentioned Will gets entangled with Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) - the daughter of the owner of the biggest time bank and time lending set up. They end up taking on the global system and try to bring it down whilst liberating the ghetto dwellers.
The story is nothing new (sadly) but the context in which it is set serves to act as a chilling reminder of our implicit complexity in a world system that discriminates and devalues on an all too arbitrary basis. At a time of 'occupy' demonstrations around our world, the resonance for me was disturbing.
The film is a fast-moving morality tale with lots of action. There are few twists as the story heads towards its inevitable conclusion. Suspense is always present as people's clocks run low. The script is in places lumpy and from time-to-time the plot lurched from one crude device to another. Overall it is a good watch that will challenge those who are prepared to engage with its ideas. Many of the sets are 'familiar' from the LA storm drains of Them to the ridged roof running sequence from The Matrix. Well worth a watch and one I'll be looking out for on disc. I'll give it 8/10.