Running out of time

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 October, 2011, 12:00am


Benjamin Franklin famously said 'time is money'. But no-one takes it literally. No-one except writer/director Andrew Niccol, and the inhabitants of the dystopian world he has created in his latest thriller In Time.

Some time in the future, the ageing gene has been shut off. Everyone stops ageing at 25 years old, the point at which a person's body is fully matured. It's also the age when the frontal lobe of the brain, the area that controls impulsive and reckless behaviour, is fully developed.

People work for time - to extend their life, with some living well past the typical age and looking not a day over 25.

'Here, time is currency, and everyone is born with a body clock embedded on the wrist,' explains Niccol. '... That clock starts ticking - and you have one year to live. Either you're born into time, and have no worries, or you begin working your life away, literally.'

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) lives in Dayton, one of the poorest areas of the country. Every day he's working to stay alive; his body clock seldom has more than 24 hours left. Gangs, aptly called Minutemen, are always looking to steal time from other citizens. The process is easy: simply place one's body clock over the victim's and the time is transferred.

One day, Will saves the wealthy Henry (Matt Bomer) from the Minutemen. As a reward, he gives Will 100-odd years' worth of time. But the authorities, known as the Timekeepers, suspect Will of murder. He flees, but not before taking Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), the daughter of a time-lending store owner Philippe Weis (Vincent Kartheiser), hostage.

At first she disapproves of Will, thinking he's just asserting his authority over her. One thing leads to the next and soon the pair find themselves on the run - together. Their hope is to fix this cutthroat world, before their time runs out.

After a successful career as a pop musician, Timberlake has made a smooth transition into film. He grew up idolising action heroes of his day, never thinking he would some day become a Hollywood star himself.

'When I was a kid, some of my favourite movies were action pieces like First Blood, The Fugitive and Die Hard,' says Timberlake. 'The one thing I loved about those specific movies was that the protagonists were everyday people placed under extraordinary circumstances and doing extraordinary things.'

Niccol is not the only one to take the time-is-money adage literally. In 2002, British economics professor Ian Walker set out to prove Franklin is correct. His conclusion: time can really be calculated in money. In Britain, where Walker conducted the research, one minute is worth about 10 pence (HK$1.23) to men and eight pence (HK$0.98) for women.

Contains violence and mature subject matter

In Time opens on Thursday