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Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Justin Timberlake, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, Olivia Wilde, Matt Bomer, Johnny Galecki, Collins Pennie, Toby Hemingway, Brendan Miller, Yaya DaCosta, Alex Pettyfer
Director: Andrew Niccol
Dystopian futures are a staple of science fiction movies, among them 1984,Soylent Green and, especially, Logan’s Run, where people are doomed to die when they reach the age of 30.
Writer-director Andrew Niccol creates a highly effective riff on the concept of inevitable early death with his intriguing and consistently suspenseful America-set science fiction thriller. In his future, everyone spots ageing when they reach 25. Which leads to a clever scene in which Timberlake greets his ‘youthful’ mother Wilde by wishing her happy 50th birthday – for the 25th time.
While people stop ageing at 25, there’s a problem – you only have one more year to live: time, literally, is money. Everything costs minutes, hours and more, from a cup of coffee to a cab ride to the interest on a loan of time. Worse still, people can watch death approaching since glowing figures on their forearms tick off the seconds, minutes, hours and years they have before death overtakes them.
The concept is perfect for creating tension and Niccol never misses a trick when it comes to scraping your nerves. Ghetto dweller Timberlake is unexpectedly given a huge gift of time by a stranger who then commits suicide. This sends Timekeeper Murphy after Timberlake, who goes on the run in a literal race against time with Seyfried, daughter of unscrupulous ‘time lord’ Kartheiser (“Time is another currency. We are it. We guard it”) who has millions of years in his bank. Timberlake, now endowed with a conscience after visiting the wealthy sector, and Seyfried soon become a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde - but with a Robin Hood complex in that they give their stolen time to the poor…
Niccol successfully integrates his ingenious central concept into an action-packed thriller set in a bleak future (decorated by appropriately bleak cinematography by Britain’s Roger Deakins) that is not that different from the present – except for the ticking time clocks ruling everyone’s lives. So we have adrenaline-surging car chases along with chilling tropes - such as a cab ride costs a year.
USA 2011. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
109 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 31 Oct 2011