4 Unintentionally Revealing Things About “In Time”

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

this life clock is analog

In Time is a movie starring Justin Timberlake and two actresses whose main contributions to the movie are that they look great and can sprint in 6 inch Jimmy Choos. And I mean fast.

In America, people don’t have the emotional courage to risk seeing a movie they don’t know if they will like, which is why Hollywood  loves to do remakes  of things (“Oh, I know that story”).  They’re not out of ideas, you are.  This is also why Hollywood puts the entire story into the trailer:


So you get the point: people live up to 25, and then have to find/earn/steal time. Time becomes a currency in a world where there is no money. Some have a lot, some don’t.

This where it gets confusing.

Olivia Wilde:

The movie is a comment on the inequalities that are crushing 99 percent of the people in our society, and the movie really makes a statement that it’s not right, and that in order for that to be dismantled, there’s going to have to have to be a change at the kind of basic core moral level of society.

Justin Timberlake:

It’s very serendipitous that this movie’s coming out right now with Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy the World as it were. We’ve always split everyone into the classes throughout history, obviously through race and wealth. Andrew is so good at shedding a light on it, at turning a mirror on us by using this other worldly concept.

I know that’s what everyone says the movie is about,  but you may want to rethink that.

1. Everyone is named after watches…

Justin Timberlake plays Salas, named after a designer watch; others include Borel, Raymond, Citizen, Ulysse, Weis.

Uh oh.  Look at those names.  If you had to pick one to name the bad guy– the evil super-rich banking family that lives in Greenwich and controls the world, which one… shouldn’t you pick?

2. All of this has happened before and it will happen again.

Hardly a spoiler: at the end, the poor rise up and defeat their evil-banker overlords. Yay.

The movie is a metaphor for the current inequality, but let’s instead take it literally. In order to have reached this point, the previous financial/global capitalist system– the one we have in place today– had to have already collapsed, yet absolutely nothing changed. Look at the trailer again– it is the exact same world as now. Coffee still costs way too much, people still dress for branding, and the divide between the haves and the have nots is identical…  the greatest upheaval we 2011ers can imagine, the destruction of  the fiat system (replaced by mercantilism) and we inevitably found a way to duplicate the exact same society and values. #OccupyWallSt should take note: we don’t create the system we want,  we get the system we want.

3. The problem, evidently, isn’t that people don’t have money.

In the beginning, Salas is approached by a little girl, “hey, can you spare a minute?” He’s poor but he’s kind: “here, take five.” Why is that scene even there?  Because his kindness is, of course, rewarded at the end when she helps him escape from the cops.   Note the implicit capitalism in that transaction.  Justin may have done it for charity but the audience intuits the mechanism.

But what about lots of “time?”  When Salas first gets hold of “centuries,” he gives his friend, who has a wife and infant son and live literally day to day, a decade.   What does this guy do? He runs immediately to a bar and drinks himself to death. That same day. “With nine years left on the clock,” his wife laments.

In fact, whenever anyone gets a significant amount of time relative to what they had, they act contrary to their own self interest and completely contrary to the interests of anyone else. They become more selfish, more self absorbed, more chaotic.  If time is money and money is freedom, when people get an usually large amount of any of those their head explodes.

That’s not me saying this, it’s in the movie.  Salas steals a million years and distributes it to the poor, a year to each person. “A year? What are they going to do with that?” bad guy Weis says.  “They get to live another year!” is the reply, at which point we’re supposed to yell, “you tell ‘em!”  Global bankers can be so obtuse, don’t they know all life is precious?  I mean all human life?  After birth?  (Ooooohhhhh.)

Bonnie and Robin Hood give out the million years.  What does everyone do with their extra year? Save it? Fix their house? Send the kids to private school?  No: they quit their jobs and deliberately cause anarchy.  Note carefully that this is the response of the masses to getting more money, not less.

“The factories are closing!” announces a TV reporter. What happens to everyone else who didn’t get an extra year and who depends on those factories for work or for the products? They don’t show that.  The woman’s baby may get an extra year but he’s still going to need baby formula.

Now the punch line: when Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) meets his alcoholic friend’s wife, and she’s crying and about to tell him that her husband squandered the decade and died of alcohol poisoning, the very first thing she says to him is this: “Oh Will, what did you do?”  Get it?  Will should have known some people can’t be trusted with a lot of money; she’d no doubt prefer a system where some governing body parcels out the “right” amount of time, and helps them make good decisions with it, and… which was the system bad-guy Weis had set up to begin with.

4. Olivia Wilde isn’t his girlfriend.

If I asked, “what is the inciting event which propels Justin Timberlake to try and take down the global financial system?” the answer would be, “Olivia Wilde dies.”

Wilde and Timberlake are living together in poverty.  Women in poverty can’t afford sleeves or second layers.

olivia wilde in time

no caption necessary

A series of events, and Olivia dies in his arms, he was unable to save her. Then he meets the new woman, played by Amanda Seyfried, who looks a lot like Olivia Wilde but with shorter hair.


So there’s a parallel between the two women. In the end, Amanda is dying in the exact same way as Olivia was, but this time Justin is able to save her. Following so far? Ok, go back to the inciting event: Olivia Wilde is his mother.

Of course, people stop aging at 25 which is why she is a MILF, but remember this is a movie about one group oppressing another group.  What is the point of making Olivia his mother and not a GF?  What does that do to the story?

The point is that in order for Justin to change his life, his mom has to die and be replaced by someone else.

The movie thinks it is showing a battle between rich and poor,  but the money is completely incidental–  it is very obviously a battle between “Gen X” and The Millenials. Amanda’s father is the evil banker; all the cops and the Minutemen (the mob) are over 50; and though the good guys are not all poor (e.g. Amanda’s character)  they are all young.

Many have said this is a kind of Logan’s Run for our time, but they don’t know how right they are.  In Logan’s Run the “old” were the good guys, who break the social contract and want more time.   In this movie the old are the bad guys for the same reason.  Given that Logan’s Run was made in 1976, those good guys are now the bad guys of In Time.

In order to have a better society, redistribution of income is less important than the death of everyone over 40.

Again, this isn’t me saying this.  It’s in the movie.

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29 Responses to 4 Unintentionally Revealing Things About “In Time”

  1. ExOttoyuhr says:


    I’ve heard it said that the great enterprise of the Catholic Church in the next twenty years will be to persuade Generation X not to euthanize the Boomers. I think it had better get to work.

  2. Santos L. Helper says:

    Hollywood movies are our collective dreams: their purpose is to let us continue sleeping. This movie taps into people’s frustration, and defuses it. Get the occupators & sympathizers (huge customer base) to pay to see it illustrated that you can have all the revolutions you want, nothing with really change, except for the worse, because it turns out the all along, we were already living in the best of all possible worlds.

    • operator says:

      … and if you didn’t get enough latent catharsis with In Time, you can always subject yourself to the blatant Tower Heist.

    • qubitman says:

      My thoughts on the status quo have changed lately. Originally I was all about fight the power and down with the man, in part because my father was an asshole. More complicated than that, but totally irrelevant. These days, when I think about the value of the status quo versus the cost to human freedom I feel like it’s better to be maintained instead of fucking things up, even if there’s unpleasantness because of it, because stability lets us improve quality of life. I like being able to walk the streets at night more than I like being able to say fuck you to the cops.

      • Santos L. Helper says:

        Preferring to prop up a deeply flawed status quo rather than take a chance for something better is THE difference between the young and the old. You’re old, man.

        Only if the current system really is capitalism & democracy does challenging the status quo mean that you’re against capitalism & democracy. If the system is in fact oligarchy & mercantilism, than being in favor of capitalism & democracy makes you the rebel.

        This false dichotomy between stability & freedom is the handmaiden of despotism & oligarchy everywhere. Would you rather live under Mussolini, or deal with trains running late? Are we sure those are the only choices?

        And really, why would you want to abuse the cops, who even in Oakland, rather than being eager to truncheon some hippies see themselves as part of “the 99%”?


    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Collective dreams that keep us asleep? On the other hand, I think it was Mark Twain who quipped that Sir Walter Scott was largely responsible for the American Civil War. Fiction has an enormous impact on what people find desirable or undesirable, what they are prepared to do about it, and in general what actions and what outcomes are conceivable or inconceivable, desirable or undesirable.

      In a sense, fiction also serves as a test of what actions and outcomes are plausible; if you can’t write it believably, and you can’t find stories that depict it believably, maybe it can’t happen after all.

      • Santos L. Helper says:

        That may be true of fiction in general (thus all the bookburning over the years), but Hollywood movies are fiction created by corporations with a different process & goal than Scott whittling twigs.

        Both In Time & Tower Heist implicitly say that the reality viewers want (and the corporations really, really don’t) viz. righteously smashing a system that deserves to be smashed will created a better world, is impossible in the real world because it couldn’t be depicted in the movies.

        They’d like to show Salas as Robin Hood fixing the unfair inequality & improving life for everyone, but sorry kid, it just couldn’t work that way. Have fun camping out in the snow.

        • ExOttoyuhr says:

          If that’s the case, don’t watch them. I’m sure there are more rewarding things to do with your weekends anyways.

        • ExOttoyuhr says:

          Missed this point in my first post: “righteously smashing a system that deserves to be smashed, creating a better world” is something that most certainly does occur in fiction; it passes the “can it be imagined?” heuristic. What that heuristic was aimed at was some of Wells’ less likely utopian material and that sort of thing: “can this cause and this effect be reconciled with human nature?”

          There’s also the alternative narrative of smashing an evil system because it deserves to be smashed, and accepting that chaos will ensue. That tends to make a very interesting jumping-off point, in history and fiction both; The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is a huge part of Chinese popular culture down to the present day.

  3. JohnJ says:

    “In America, people don’t have the emotional courage to risk seeing a movie they don’t know if they will like…”

    That’s BS. Hollywood makes so many disappointing movies that being selective about what you see only makes sense. This is like complaining that people aren’t courageous enough to pet wild animals. Of course people are going to go to those movies they think they will enjoy most. That just makes sense. It has nothing to do with courage. It has everything to do with waiting for it to come out on tv.

    • max says:

      Chicken or the egg. I think these days movies are loss-leaders: if there’s no mass merchandise appeal the movie corps don’t invest. That’s another way of saying they’re not made for you, they’re made for kids and teens.

      • operator says:

        The Nag factor, a marketing study that evaluated the effect of nagging, was designed to teach children how to nag more effectively.

        The Corporation: Basic Training

        • claudius says:

          operator, I’m sure you’ve already seen the woman with the red blazer on at 3:10 of that video. She sprouted horns right about then. Scary.

          Definitely going to watch the whole thing when I get off work. Thanks for posting.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Couldn’t both be true?

      There are movies that are just plain deficient in technical aspects (typically writing, dialogue, and storytelling — Hollywood’s special-effects standards are tighter), and there are movies that are technically well-executed but advocate things that a viewer may not be all that keen about having advocated to him. Viewers are within their rights to be leery about both; putting a lot of the movie’s premise in the trailer allows them to get a rough sense of the technical quality of the movie, its picture of the world, and the extent to which audiences can be expect to be beaten over the head with said picture.

      • JohnJ says:

        They probably are both true. Pretty much everything is a combination of factors, and people tend to focus on those factors they want to be the explanation, and ignore those factors they don’t want to be part of the explanation. “Why is 1+3=4? It’s all because of the 1!” “No, it’s all because of the 3!” “No, it’s all because of the +!”

  4. Or says:

    This almost sounds as crazy as your analysis of Hop. I might actually have to see these movies now just to see if I can believe my eyes.

  5. typedef struct says:

    In America, people don’t have the emotional courage to risk seeing a movie they don’t know if they will like

    You could just as easily argue that Hollywood doesn’t want to spend $100 million making a movie that people might not like.

    In order to have reached this point, the previous financial/global capitalist system– the one we have in place today– had to have already collapsed, yet absolutely nothing changed.

    That’s because the movie isn’t showing a post-collapse system, it’s showing a different model of our current system. “Why hasn’t the system changed already?” isn’t a question that’s explored or relevant to the movie.

    In fact, whenever anyone gets a significant amount of time relative to what they had, they act contrary to their own self interest and completely contrary to the interests of anyone else.

    The same thing happens to lottery winners today, I don’t see how this breaks the metaphor.

    Will should have known some people can’t be trusted with a lot of money; she’d no doubt prefer a system where some governing body parcels out the “right” amount of time, and helps them make good decisions with it, and… which was the system bad-guy Weis had set up to begin with.

    Well no, the system Weis had set up mirrors Capitalism, where the movie is clearly pushing Communism. Will says (paraphrasing) “No one should be allowed to live while even one person has to die.” The only way for this to happen is for everyone to have an equal amount of time (money).

  6. boeotarch says:

    Wait- in the metaphor of the movie, where does time come from? I feel like it’s pointless to try and make an economic parallel out of this when the “currency” doesn’t seem to work anything like actual currency.

    • ExOttoyuhr says:

      Forget where the time comes from; I want to know who goes around checking people’s clocks and shooting them. (And whoever they are, how carefully is their time limit enforced? “Our collective exemption from the time-limit policy allows us to accumulate potentially infinite experience and skill, the better to prevent any violation of the system.”)

      • operator says:

        “… and might you be interested in any singularity-backed relativistic securities?”

        • ExOttoyuhr says:

          No, no, no! Chrono-KGB, not chrono-Wall Street, unless Wall Street has secret prisons I’m not familiar with.

          • JonnyVelocity says:

            They do have ‘secret’ prisons.
            That’s where the lock up all the (real/perceived) value of things as numbers. The numbers are so secret only traders and bankers can know them, but they can’t even know them because they’re mysterious and ever-changing.

          • operator says:

            Think of the closest US parallel to the KGB – the agency that maintains secret prisons around the world, refers to itself as “The Company”, and has agents “moonlighting” on Wall Street.

            If you guessed “CIA”, congratulations – you’re right.

          • ExOttoyuhr says:


            All I thought I was saying was, “I’d like to know who’s shooting people when their clocks run out, and what excuses they make for not subjecting themselves to the same discipline.”