I used to think I was about as left-wing as you could get - to the extent that you could have called me a pretentious filthy pinko and I would have probably took it as a compliment. Christ, I once voluntarily became personae non gratae at a Globalisation lecture when I called out somebody for essentially saying that her right to go on holiday to Ibiza and get pissed was more important than the right for sweatshop workers to earn more than a pittance. I even used the term personae non gratae (in italics) - and attended Globalisation lectures.
But something must have changed - because the other night I saw Andrew Niccol's OWS parable 'In Time' and it repulsed me to the very core; not just on a technical/narrative level but on a moral one. I would put a spoiler warning here - but that would imply there's something to spoil.
'In Time' is primarily a science-fiction thriller set in a world where time is the only currency; on your 25th birthday you stop aging, which is a pretty neat birthday present. But then a little LCD clock in your arm politely tells you that you have one year left to live, so swings and roundabouts I guess. After that, you're on your own to keep that little clock from hitting all naughts by any means necessary whether it be through employment, theft or being fortunate enough to have a rich relative. Everything is pretty much exactly as it is now, with the sometimes abstract concept of money replaced by the horrifying fact of mortality. Wealth is now even more directly related to your life expectancy and well-being. There is no limit to the wealth one can acquire - making each and every human being effectively immortal. There is certainly no denying that such a concept could make one hell of a movie. It doesn't here.
Enter JT - who is pretty much established as being a good actor by now so I can't really say anything bad about him. Which is a shame, because I can imagine there could be some good jokes in there. Moving on.
JT plays a bald man in a dystopian future who finds out his dystopian future is a bit shit when a suicidal rich guy gives him a full century on the house before dropping dead and falling off a bridge. Before doing so, Mr. Richguy points out that - brace yourself - time is in fact an abstract concept which is not actually a limited commodity and the richest 1% ensure that as little time as possible trickles down to the lower classes so that they can reap the benefits of being pretty much immortal and having lots of sports cars and caviar. A dictatorship of the bourgeoisie you could say. This stunning revelation blows JT's mind more than a ten year old being told why 'we don't just print more money'. I'm guessing Karl Marx never existed in this universe. Or maybe JT's character is just an incredibly stupid pillock.
|Stop being so likable and talented... you prick!|
Things get even slightly more irritating for JT when his mother - played by Olivia Wilde (which means I would happily be Timberlake's Motherlover) - runs out of time and drops dead when her regular bus fare goes up an hour. To be honest, she kind of had it coming - if you're in a position where what equates to a one dollar bus fare increase can kill you, well - maybe you shouldn't be spending so much time/money on the kind of face-goop Hollywood make-up artists use. Things be tough in the ghetto yo; but apparently people can still afford to have their eyebrows plucked by cherubs.
|A woman with her priorities seriously out of whack|
Armed with a dead mother, a century on his clock and about three minutes of exposition from a guy he just met - JT moves up a couple of financial zones with the intention of "making them pay" or some shit. At this point, I have literally no idea who the hell "they" could be - he can't just be making a blanket statement about rich people, because that would be fucking stupid. Oh wait, I forgot - THIS FILM IS FUCKING STUPID.
Enter Cillian Murphy (which I would happily do, I mean what?) - a Timekeeper. Or a "detective" if you will. Sworn to ensure that the flow of time in the various time zones is all running as it should be (a.k.a. as the rich think it should), Agent Murphy is quick to start hunting down JT. Other than providing some form of antagonist in a film which desperately needs one, he doesn't really do much. Sometimes I think he's there just so we can see Cillian Murphy running around in a bitching leather trench-coat.
|A noble goal if ever there was one|
Once arriving in the super-rich borough of New Greenwich (oh ha ha how clever), JT hits up the casino in order to win some time off the evil, evil rich people. It's here we meet the films massive evil CEO - who is played by Vincent Kartheiser. Which is cheating frankly - casting Kartheiser as an asshole is like casting Steven Seagal as a man who punches people in the face.
|A Legacy of Assholes|
There's a tense poker confrontation between JT and Pete Campbell, which is when I realise how many tense poker confrontations in movies I've missed out on by not even slightly understanding the rules of poker. To me, the bulk of Casino Royal may as well have consisted of people discussing quantum mechanics in Pig Latin.
|Ah yes, I see Bond has made the clever move of placing|
a number of cards of various suits and values on a table.
JT gets himself a love interest (Pete Campbell's daughter) who - through sheer animal magnetism and the fact that it only takes about five minutes of skinny-dipping to coerce her to any way of thinking - JT manages to recruit as a Bonnie to his Clyde. The two set off on a life of crime which pretty much involves taking time from the rich and giving it to the poor. There's a couple of stunningly boring action beats involving Agent Murphy chasing after JT; a hastily brought up and just as hastily forgotten about sub-plot involving Timberlake's father which has no pay-off at all and an out-of-its-arse conclusion that has to be seen to be believed.
After a couple of bank heists, Bonnie & Robin Hood realise they've been wasting their time when tax increases to a point that counteracts fluctuations caused by their actions. After ninety minutes of nothing - in the final 15 minutes - Love Interest mentions that her father happens to have a Million Years locked up in his private fault. They show up, nick the time and give it all to the poor people - which will apparently lead to the complete and total collapse of the global economy. Agent Murphy gives chase but is so focused on hunting JT that he doesn't realise that he's neglected to top his clock up. Cillian Murphy dies. Timberlake and Love Interest rob some more banks. End.
Throughout this recounting - you might be curious just what exactly irritated me. Christ - where to start? I like to think I'm good at the whole "willing suspension of disbelief" thing - I usually bitch at people if they start pointing out little illogical niggles in sci-fi movies, especially is it's a mainly allegorical sci-fi movie ie. logic takes a back seat to making a statement. But there was something about 'In Time' that really made me blow my gasket AT EVERY LITTLE FUCKING THING. They are so numerous that I can not realistically imagine forming them into a cohesive, flowing series of paragraphs - so here's a bunch of shit in a list.
1. The Timekeepers can track the exact number of years present in the populace of any given zone on the Earth, but apparently there isn't a system that logs time transfers. When a suicidal rich guy gives the Peasant Timberlake his century of time, even though they see it on CCTV they apparently can't just check to see who received the time. This would be fine if there was going to be an "Agent Cillian Murphy being all detective to find out who Timberlake is" subplot - but there isn't. There's five minutes of Murphy looking at CCTV stuff, logging traffic, working out where Timberlake is etc then they know who it is. They could have easily just had Murphy go "Oh check his logs. The time went to Timberlake". Boom - your film is now better paced, blessedly shorter and contains one less illogical fart that could irritate people.
2. People can steal your time (to the extent that they can effectively kill you) by simply grabbing your hand and taking it. There are apparently no safe-guards to prevent this from happening. Something so catastrophically retarded I CAN'T EVEN WHY THE FUCK. Seriously, I could just grab your hand and steal your life. I know it's only so mugging can still exist in their OWS allegory - but it's still fucking stupid.
3. Banks have Bank Vaults. Filled with time. Bank vaults. Physical bank vaults filled with little computer pads containing time. I know it's just so Timberlake can steal it - but come the fuck on.
4. Cillian Murphy dies because he's so focused on catching Timberlake that he doesn't realise he's running out of time. Apparently, there's no alarm or anything. He checks his arm - it tells him he only has 12 seconds to live and he dies.
5. Agent Murphy was about to ask his work to transfer his wages (time) to his car when he saw Timberlake and chased after him. Timberlake almost dies too - but he goes to Murphy's car and asks for the time. Which the thingy in the car gives him. Because in the future when everybody is effectively immortal, they can't check to see who they're giving the time to.
6. Both JT and Love Interest only have a minute left and they're half-a-mile from Murphy's car. They proceed to spend twelve seconds arguing whether one person should transfer their last minute to the other so they can make it - then about seven seconds making out. Time and a place.
7. A gangster challenges JT to an arm wrestle. They wrestle until the gangster dies because JT stole all his time through the wrestle. A time-stealing arm wrestle. Fuck you movie.
8. I know we've been over this but - seriously - if you just shake somebodies hand will you just inadvertently give them a couple of your minutes?
9. JT almost collapses the global economy because he gives a CEO's saved up Million years to a million people. Which is like saying the economy would collapse overnight because a million poor people each received a thousand pounds.
10. Somewhere at the beginning - somebody mentioned something about how the system ensures that people still die in a world full of immortals, to prevent the slight problems of everything being completely fucked in the event of the human race having an incredible birth rate with absolutely no death rate whatsoever. This is never mentioned again - which seems stupid considering what JT's actions could lead to.
|Justin Timberlake wishes the world was filled with immortal child molesters - FACT.|
11. The film takes the stance the each and every person with lots of money is useless, evil scum that deserves no pity. You never learn what any of these rich people actually do - they just eat caviar and play poker. The idea that any of these people could have not only legitimately earned this money but even deserve it isn't even considered.
12. Love Interest shows absolutely no qualms about pointing guns at civilians, law enforcement and even her own father. I am not on her side.
13. There's a scene where JT carjacks a rich couple. This is not me seeing a plucky hero standing up for the downtrodden - this is me seeing a violent, bald prick steal somebodies nice car because they had committed the crime of having enough money to buy one. Seriously - fuck this film and its utter contempt for people who have had the audacity of having any money whatsoever. Maybe I'm just so enamoured by the pacifist heroics of The Doctor at this point that any film where the "heroes" do nothing but rob banks and shoot people disgusts me - but there's something about the sneering, exaggerated brush used to paint the "antagonists" that I have a real big problem with.
14. I'm supposed to belief that the aforementioned violent, bald prick is the salvation of mankind - that this bank robber possesses an intellect that can change the world for the better. I don't - his beliefs are stolen from the suicidal rich guy who told him the score and he's too fucking stupid to have any real plan beyond "Buh - let's take all the money and give it to the poor people". It's the kind of idealistic bullshit you'd like to believe could lead to world peace when you're seven - but when you grow up you realise it's all probably a bit trickier than that. He is a stupid cunt and I was on Agent Murphy's side the entire god-damned time.
15. Maybe that's the point - maybe the film is just reflecting the feelings of the kind of people who know the world is fucked up but have have no real idea why or how to fix it beyond just blindly hating all politicians and rich people. But I doubt it.
You know the main message of 'In Time'? Capitalism is a bit shit. Incredibly mind-blowing and view-altering I know - and certainly a message which needed $40,000,000 (a figure which I can imagine could do quite a bit of good in the less fortunate areas of the world, yeah brah?) spent on it to incorporate it into a Timberlake vehicle. I could make a joke about the film essentially exploiting the current "We are the 99%" climate to the extent that it's capitalising on Occupy Wall Street, but I won't. Except I kind of just did. SO I WILL.
Look - everybody knows Capitalism fundamentally requires that there's always an underclass. Yes, there's better ways a world could operate. I'd love to see everything change. But making a film that just points out how flawed the system is without actually offering an alternative, other than "hey, wouldn't everything be better if we took some money from the rich people and gave it to the poor"? Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or as I like to call it - taking a shitty action movie and presenting it as a high-concept intellectual thriller which - under a veneer of thoughtfulness and Hollywood gloss - is fundamentally void of anything approaching meaning.