What an intriguing idea. This is the type of sci-fi that I usually tend to like over just another film with space battles. sci-fi films that make you think and make parallels to real life. Once I saw the previews to this film I thought this film would be something special. Not only did the film have an intriguing idea but only draw from mythic legends like Robin Hood and numinous of great themes but the film falls short on such a great idea with a failure to really understand what type of scope there really could have been with this story along with a less than stellar cast the film is entertaining but only a footnote of what it could have been.
The film’s concept is a future where humans have been genetically engineered to stop ageing after age 25 but after that you have only one more year to live. Time is the currency, no such thing as money. You work to get more time but it is a bleak future where the rich have all the power and all the time. Meanwhile the rest live in the ghettos where almost everyone has only has 24 hours to live and they live by the clock.
The story opens with a man in the ghetto named Will Salas is given the gift of time from a man who doesn’t care to live anymore from the rich-infected lifestyle. Will is then accused of murder and on the run from a police force known as “timekeepers.” With a rich man’s daughter at his side he hopes to effectively change in the system.
The film’s story should have been one of the best of the decade. I mean the idea is so incredible, it feels awful that it was a bit wasted. The film story does a good job on laying out the ground rules of the universe they live in. This was great about it a short speech in the beginning and then you are plunged into the life of Will Salas. You get a pretty good picture on how he lives just from the first 10 min. You learn a lot about the world and the film starts to set up some story lines. There are incredible themes being talked about and running through the undercurrents of the story. That is where a lot of the film’s story start to come to an end.
The film starts up several story lines and just never delivers. Some just seems abandoned by the end and others that kept building and never got the final “crescendo” or pay off. It seems like not only that with these great ideas and scary parallels to real life class warfare, the film could have been bigger than it ended up being, It hard to say exactly what it was missing. The fact that it is such an original idea and yet the way the story is told and executed feels so generic. It ends up looking no different than any other action film on the market today and loses that quality of originality. Does every film need to be unique? No, but a film that has a story such as this that is inherently original, you expect more out of it. Andrew Niccol’s other sci-fi film, “Gattaca” (1998), also had a great and original idea, but the execution was there was as well. It felt different than any film you previously saw, then with this one, it should feel like that, but instead becomes just another action flick.
I thought maybe my expectations for the film were just too high. I watched it again nearly a year after I first saw it, after the hype I had built up in my head died down. However I still had the same gripes by the story. It is almost frustrating because you know there is so much potential there, but it missed. There are also plot points left annoyingly hanging and there were also some scenes I honestly thought could make for some classic scenes like when we finally get to see what “a fighter” is and how they fight. The scene was too short and was a number of others felt a little short in fact the film overall felt a bit short without a real good conclusion. Many of the scenes lost any gravity of emotion because of it being cut too short.
The film seems to leave the possibility of having a strong story oriented film instead opting for an action fueled story. The film has no shortage of action sequences and that is properly the saving grace to the film. It does keep the viewer entertained and it does keep the story moving. There are some good car crashes and also on foot chases. A good number of gun battles to be boot. Even with the PG-13 rating it is able to have some real action and violence. However I think I could have done without a couple of these, so we would have a stronger story, or maybe the story could have been written better so these scenes would have more meaning.
The acting is also questionable. Justin Timberlake stars a Will Salas and Justin isn’t the greatest and almost always is stepping outside his range of acting especially with the dramatic scenes. This is a shame because I thought he would because I really liked his performance in “The Social Network” (2010). I think it’s starting to become clearer now that he should stick with “Friends With Benefits” type films, hopefully he proves me wrong.
Amanda Seyfried’s performance falls flat in my eyes even though she had some nice chemistry with Justin. She is almost as wooden as Timberlake, which could attribute to the overall chemistry they have. Cillian Murphy is amazing as the timekeeper Raymond Leon. This is an outstanding performance from Murphy as he usually delivers and completely steals the show and owns absolutely every scene he is in. The rest are decent but nothing special. Shyloh Oostwald is okay; I liked Johnny Galecki as Borel. I didn’t love Olivia Wilde even if she didn’t have a big part. Alex Pettyfer is finally getting better roles since his role in “Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker” (2006). He is good here as Fortis the “minutemen” which a “gangster of the future.” He is getting better as an actor and am pleased to see that, if we are patient with him, he could become a big player in the movie industry, but for now it’s too earlier to tell and would like to see him get more roles to help him branch out.
Andrew Niccol is a great talent behind the camera. I loved his previous film “Gattaca” (1998) and show here even with a weak script, is an obvious talent. Also his use of practical effects over CGI heavy effects is definitely noticeable and gives the film a sense of reality. The music by Craig Armstrong fits perfectly.
Really with this type of idea it really could have been something special. The acting hurt the film a bit with the exception of Cillian Murphy. But with a talented director behind the camera and behind the scenes, also with some really entertaining action sequences makes the film watchable but you can’t help but feel it could be so much more. If there was a film that I would like to see remade, this would be it.