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Film: In Time
"Allow me to introduce my mother-in-law Clara, my wife Michelle and my daughter Sylvia."

A 2011 Sci-Fi Action/Adventure film starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Vincent Kartheiser, and Olivia Wilde.

In a retro-future when the aging gene has been switched off, people must pay to stay alive; though everybody stops aging at 25, stamped on their arm is a clock showing how long they have left to live. To avoid overpopulation, time has become the currency and the way people pay for luxuries and necessities. The rich can live forever, while the rest try to negotiate for their immortality. A poor young man is accused of murder when he receives a fortune of time from a dead upper class man, and is forced to go on the run from a FBI-like police force known as the 'Timekeepers'. The poor also live in fear of the 'Minute Men', a ruthless gang that robs people of all their time, killing them.

Is strongly reminiscent of both Logan's Run and The Fugitive, though it's not a remake of either. It also shares some elements with Equilibrium. Harlan Ellisonnote  sued to try to get it withdrawn, but on November 4, 2011, he ultimately agreed to a settlement similar to what he got for The Terminator (i.e. his name will be added to the credits). He ultimately dropped the suit altogether before the month was out, having seen the film.


The film provides the following tropes:

  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The rich indulge in this with their time. Will wins 1000 years thanks to it.
  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Justified. Because the aging gene has been switched off, Will's mom looks like she's in her mid-twenties. As the picture at the top shows, the same goes for Sylvia's mom Michelle and her mom Clara.
  • Abusive Parents: While the context makes it sympathetic, some of the ghetto residents are shown to wish they could use the time of their pre-25 children as well as their own.
  • The Ageless: Everyone has this kind of immortality, so long as they can keep time on their clock. It's implied disease has been eliminated, but people still need to eat and drink.
  • The Alcoholic: Borel is seen adding alcohol to his morning coffee, drunk at the bar later on, and ultimately dies due to alcohol poisoning when Will gives him a decade.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Sylvia becomes interested in Will the moment she sees that he runs while others walk, and takes more risks than the rich people she's surrounded with.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Weis family. They have a common Jewish name and conform to a number of Greedy Jew stereotypes.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The reason Will's mom dies. It's also notable that, at several points in the film, people are just dead on the ground from timing out and no one has the courtesy to move the body.
  • Arc Words:
    • "Is it stealing if it's already stolen?"
    • "For a few to be immortal, many must die."
      • "No one should be immortal, if even one person has to die."
    • "You can do a lot in a day."
    • "Don't waste my time."
  • Artistic License - Economics: Perhaps deliberately invoked. If the system operated on any kind of supply/demand process, then it would require a constant stream of new births to prevent deflation. If it was meant to prevent overpopulation, the cost of living would be based on population concentration. Instead wages are decreased and prices are increased by fiat (especially once Will and Sylvia begin their time theft spree), meaning the purpose of the system is to Work The Poor To Death at a controllable rate.
  • Artistic License - Biology:
    • The idea that you can commoditize lifespan is pure fantasy.
    • Aging is not caused by an "aging gene," but rather through damage sustained to DNA due to repeated splitting and copying necessary for cellular division.
      • Broadly understood, "aging" is a very multifaceted biological process. The skin becoming thinner and wrinkled with age is mainly due to exposure to ultraviolet radiation, there's joints wearing out simply due to use over time, and so on.
  • Badass Longcoat: All field timekeepers have one.
  • The Beautiful Elite: And not just the elite. Not only is everyone in this world 25 or younger, they all happen to be able to pass for supermodels.
    • A notable exception would be the fat guy behind the food counter.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Sylvia was bored with her sterile rich life and wanted a life of excitement and adventure. She got it. She lampshades this.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Raymond Leon honestly thinks the system is necessary to maintain the population and that charity actually harms the poor.
  • Blond Guys Are Evil: Fortis the Minute Man is a strong contender for Most Unpleasant Person In The Universe. The only other guy that comes close is Weis who, to keep things balanced, is actually dark-haired.
  • Bond, James Bond: In the casino, Will introduces himself as "Salas, Will Salas."
  • Cast From Life Span: This has actually replaced money. Everything is paid for in time, salary is paid out in time, and running out of time is instant death. The wealthy have centuries, or even millenia, to spare, while the lower class live day to day.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The trick Will's father taught him for winning "fights".
    • And, earlier in the film, his friend commenting that he stopped loosing money at poker when Will stopped playing.
  • Conspicuous CG: The car rolling down the hill.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Rachel's death is part of the inciting incident.
  • Cool Shades: Phillipe Weis's bodyguards wear pretty ominous sunglasses. Will then uses this to get close enough to him to hold him hostage.
  • Crapsack World: Will's mom Rachel is compassionate, beautiful and intelligent, with fifty years of life experience in a 25 years old body and the capacity to live forever. The system casually murders her, for no other reason than it being ruled by people who consider her to be a worthless waste of space. The rest of the story goes out of its way to show that this kind of tragedy happens all the time, since it's simply how the system works. It is also clearly established that the lack of time is artificial. Everyone could live forever, but the government chose to murder poor people in the interest of avoiding overpopulation, and to keep the rich families rich. Whether or not space expansion would be a viable option isn't mentioned, probably because nobody cares.
    • Crapsaccharine World: The beautiful and serene domains of the rich, where you spend your time worrying about accidents and assassinations while making sure to be as publicly lazy as possible and trying very hard to avoid thinking about what you are doing to the rest of mankind.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Even before his mother died, Will used to fight people for their time. It's even hinted that he might have killed a few guys this way. This skill, "time fighting", becomes very useful later on.
  • Deadly Game: "Time fighting", a deadly variation on arm wrestling. It's more of a personal endeavor rather than a recognized sport, however. Since time is transferred simply by aiming one's wrist up (lose time) or down (gain it), the game consists of two people locking at the wrists to transfer time, then trying to force the other guy to drain his clock. Loser dies, though there are probably friendlier versions of the game that don't play for such high stakes since they do it on the street.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sylvia doesn't seem to care that she and Will are wanted by the law.
    Sylvia: We look cute together.
  • Determinator: Leon is dead-set on catching Will, as evidenced by him being the only officer willing to jump out a second-story window to continue the chase. It also serves as one of several hints that Leon, unlike his partners, is more familiar with the ghetto than he likes to let on.
  • Disappeared Dad: Will's father died when he was very young. It's implied he was killed for trying to help the poor and break the system.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Daughter of a wealthy family gets kidnapped and assists in a series of bank robberies. Patty Hearst, anyone?
    • The movie was released in the wake of Occupy Wall Street and boy, does it show.
  • Dungeon Bypass: A lot of establishing shots show how thick and secure the time zone barriers are... which Will and Sylvia completely ignore by going through the toll booth.
  • Embarrassing Rescue: Though it's subtle, Leon is clearly bothered when Will gives him several hours of time prior to stealing his car, since Leon wouldn't have had enough to get back to the other Timekeepers otherwise.
  • Evil Brit: Fortis, the Minute Man gangster.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Enforced by the clocks. The twist is that it's mutable.
  • Failed a Spot Check: After Will's failed attempt to ransom Sylvia, he lets her call her father to be rescued while watching out for her across the street. Leon proceeds to park on the side street and walk up to Will gun-drawn, both of which Will would have noticed if he had the presence of mind to turn his head even once.
  • Foreshadowing: One of Leon's goons remarks to him that he's cutting his time refill very close about half-way through the movie.
  • Gold Fever: What does Borel proceed to do after receiving 10 years from Will? Buy some household items? Get some supplies for his new born baby? No, he heads to the bar and spends it on booze. When Will comes by his apartment again, looking to get some of that time back, his wife says, "He drank himself to death with nine years on his clock."
  • Greedy Jew: The Weis family are Ambiguously Jewish financiers who suck the life out of the general population. They are specifically called usurers at one point.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The rich man who gives away almost all of his time to the protagonist, leaving himself only enough to walk over to the nearest bridge and die. The amount? Over 100 years. Will was pretty close to the wire at the time, making it likely that his own heroism in saving the guy could have been a fatal endeavor.
  • Honor Before Reason: A weird example with Fortis, who's a murderous gangster but "doesn't like to kill a man in cold blood." Instead, when he has Will at gunpoint, he challenges him to a battle to the death instead of just killing him.
    • Fortis is actually a subversion. He says he doesn't like to kill in cold blood, but he complains loudly about the literal waste of time when he shoots a man in the back. If you die from trauma, whatever time you still have is rendered useless, as shown when Borel died with 9 whole years on his clock. Fortis has a very good reason to not just go around shooting people.
    • Will also counts. He gives Raymond 4 hours to leave the ghetto safely, despite barely having ten himself. And this is after Raymond just pointed a gun at his head.
  • Idiot Ball: Most of the cast, at one point or other. Several characters in particular show a suicidal disregard for their time allowance.
    • Will's mother knows she'll be running a very tight schedule after repaying her loan, but still gives Will 30 minutes just so he can "enjoy his lunch". Even had the bus fares not doubled, she was leaving herself just 30 minutes of leeway.
    • Will himself keeps coming into large quantities of time, then giving it away and leaving himself only a few hours, instead of, say, a year. Especially ridiculous at the end, when he has a million years and gives all but about half an hour away, predictably leaving him seconds from death at the climax.
    • Raymond, being a Timekeeper, habitually lets his clock run low so as to avoid being a target for thieves. However, he puts off a top-up with only 45 minutes of time left, just so that he can chase after Will, in his car. Like Will's mother, his complete lack of foresight/planning ends up killing him.
    • Asides from his team of incredibly ineffectual bodyguards, Phillipe Weis has very little security protecting his fortune, though this is possibly due to complacency from living in a Utopian timezone. Less forgivable are his banks and lending shops, who leave the vault open during business hours, apparently have no security guards, and have nothing in place to stop a simple ram-raid, even in the rougher areas.
  • Idle Rich: The rich can actually have time to waste, thus spend all their days doing things very slowly.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Sylvia non-fatally wounds Leon when he's about to arrest Will. She states that while she did fire intentionally, she wasn't actually trying to hit Leon, just scare him. Later on, she (accidentally this time) shoots the hood of the car they're trying to steal, scaring the crap out of both Will and the driver.
  • Immortality Immorality: The point that Will (and, before him, Henry Hamilton) is trying to make is that the wealthy stay immortal by exploiting the poor, who live day-by-day and collapse dead when they don't even have enough time for rent.
  • Inspector Javert/Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Timekeeper Raymond Leon straddles the line between the two. At first, he just seems to be doing his job, making him the latter. As the movie presses on, however, there are hints that Leon isn't doing this just because he feels it's the right thing to do. The final revelation that he's from the ghetto and is making sure that people from there stay there actively makes him Javert.
  • Internalized Categorism: Welcome to a system where the poor are taught to hate themselves while the rich spend their time frantically trying to avoid seeing what kind of world they are building... failing at that, they are likely to commit suicide.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • A positive example: Will's mother dies as they run to embrace each other, which had they succeeded would have meant her survival given Will's surplus. The same scenario happens again in the climax, between Will and Sylvia, only they reach each other in time to survive.
    • Another positive example in "Is it still stealing if it was stolen to begin with?"
  • Just for Pun: Wealth, being measured in time, is measured in "time zones" for standard of living.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: The whole point of the plot is Will stealing time from the immortal and giving it to the dying.
  • Karma Houdini: The bus driver who heartlessly kicks Will's mother off when she doesn't have enough time to get a ride, which causes her to spend it all running to get to her son until she dies.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: When Leon is stranded in the ghetto, away from his car and access to his time allotment, he's forced to walk until someone picks him up. The citizens break the phones so he can't call for help. Seemingly the entire town takes some time from their busy day to mock him, for the entire walk. You'd almost feel bad for him if he weren't portrayed as anything other than a jerk who does nothing to help the common man.
  • Lampshaded Double Entendre: "After I've taken you, I'll take her. [Beat] And her time too, of course."
  • Leonine Contract: A way of life when bankruptcy kills you and everyone can see how much time you have to live if you refuse the deal. Pawn shops will fleece customers if they think they can get away with it (can't afford to wait a day until we open again, sucks to be you) while the biggest mogul in the country runs payday lending facilities with interested rates that are implied to be staggering (despite being similar to real-life credit card rates, and a fraction of pay-day loan companies' interest rates).
  • Life Will Kill You: Played straight in the story, subverted by the setting. Within the story, characters die from the smallest mistakes, such as only keeping enough cash for the bus ride home (without knowing that the fee has been increased), or getting so absorbed in your duty that you don't take the time to refill your clock when you have the chance. On the political level, however, it is made clear that the system has been engineered for these kinds of mistakes to occur. The government is murdering their citizens on a genocidal level, while building in an element of randomization as an excuse to pretend that it's the victim's own fault.
  • Little Black Dress: Sylvia wears one to a party, and then for much of the film.
  • Longevity Treatment: The aging gene has been "shut down", freezing aging at 25. But to prevent overpopulation and present an anvilicious message about income disparity, people are programmed to die at a certain time and use their remaining time as currency.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: The river completes Will's straight, allowing him to beat the set of queens of the villain. Right after he called some big bets with a trash hand preflop and with a gutshot afterwards. Seriously, if the villain had called him out for his stupid play, he'd been right. Don't Try This at Home, you will probably lose all you got.
  • Meaningful Name: The poor live in Dayton, which seems to be named for the fact they usually have just a day or two on their watch. The rich live in New Greenwich, presumably named for the place in London where all time is measured from.
  • Modern Stasis: The movie is set at least a century ahead, but aside from advances in genetic engineering, which started the whole thing, progress seems to have ground to a halt. In fact, Dayton seems to have less technology than current times. People rely on payphones, for example.
    • Though we only see them in Dayton, where people probably have more urgent things to spend their sparse time on than mobile phones.
  • Moment Killer: Every time Will and Sylvia get close, something always shows up to move the plot along.
  • Moving the Goalposts: People in the ghetto get hit with this hard. Will goes over his previous quota, only to be cheated out of a bonus because the quota went up. His mother is forced to walk home when the bus fare doubles for no reason. Will's later criminal activities only make the problem worse; to compensate for his thefts, the costs are jacked up.
  • Nerves of Steel: Will keeps a cool head even when he has minutes or seconds left on his clock.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Shortly after getting his initial boon of time, Will notably tips a waitress a week. In return, she gives him some tips about his appearance before he hits the casino.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Will's mother gives him thirty minutes for a proper lunch. If she had kept the time, she would have been able to run to Will.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: In keeping with Nice to the Waiter. Only the Timekeepers wear garb that could be considered out of place, and it's more like a uniform than anything else.
  • Oh Crap: The default reaction of anyone who is almost out of time, except Will.
    • Weis delivers a great one when Will gambles himself down to a few seconds during the poker game; the only reason you'd go that far all in is that you're either suicidal (probably not, if you're still in New Greenwich), or you've got a monster hand.
    • It's not unreasonable that Will was flirting with suicide at that point in the film.
  • Older than They Look: Once you reach 25, you stop aging.
  • One Head Taller: Bordering on Huge Guy, Tiny Girl. Amanda Seyfried (Sylvia) is so much shorter than Justin Timberlake (Will) she has to wear extremely high heels in every scene to keep them in shot together.
  • Opera Gloves: Sylvia's outfit includes a pair.
  • Outlaw Couple: Will and Sylvia start stealing from Sylvia's dad. But they distribute all the wealth.
  • The Password Is Always Swordfish: The combination to Phillipe Weis' time vault is "12021809": Charles Darwin's birthday. Sylvia needs one short guess to get it.
  • Police Are Useless: As Will points out, the Timekeepers are all-too willing to unfairly punish him for getting a huge amount of time, both times in ways that were perfectly legal, but refuse to lift a finger to stop serial time thieves who regularly kill people by draining their clocks.
  • Population Control: An example which the vast majority of society isn't really aware of. The cost of living is so high that most people don't live too much longer than a normal human would. If everyone lived forever, the population would explode. Instead, the lower class lives and dies as normal (or even younger) by today's standards, while the upper class collects the time they spend, giving them hundreds or even thousands of years to spend as they please. This way, only a select few get true immortality.
  • Precision F-Strike: In a film notably devoid of profanity, Will delivers the lines "Shit!" and "Un-fucking-believable!" within two minutes of one another.
  • Pretty in Mink: A white fur wrap is worn by Sylvia when she first meets will. A lady she and Will hold up wears a sable jacket.
  • Properly Paranoid: Philippe Weis.
  • Punch Clock Villain: While Leon's motives go beyond mere law enforcement, his colleagues are far more sympathetic. They're only following orders most of the time, point out Leon's highly negative interpretation of Will, and Leon's partner ultimately resigns at the end.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: Fortis tries to shake down a guy for his time, but Will's Robin Hood antics have given him enough of a surplus to buy a gun. Since he can't strongarm the guy, Fortis just shoots in a moment of anger, thus killing him and rendering his surplus time unobtainable.
  • Race Against the Clock: A literal example considering what happens if you run out of time.
  • Rags to Riches: Zig-zagged. Will starts off rarely waking up with more than a day to live. Then he gets a century all at once. Then he loses all but two hours, and has to work his way back up, through a series of pawnings and thefts, to enough to purchase a hotel. Then he loses almost all of it again, and so on.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The cast to varying degrees, considering all humans are genetically engineered to not age after 25. Weis's states that he's "25 for the 85th time," which either means he's much older than his wife, or that his mother-in-law is actually at least 150 years old, which makes her the oldest person in the film.
  • Retro Universe: Crossed with Modern Stasis, though in some ways the world looks more like a futuristic version of The Seventies and The Eighties. Justified in that there's really little incentive to make any significant changes when there's all the time in the world.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Raymond Leon, when Weis tries to bribe him with effective immortality. Part of the reason is that It's Personal.
    Leon: There isn't enough time in the world.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Philippe Weis. Unfortunately for him, Raymond Leon cannot be bought.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Leon's partner resigns at the end of the film, leaving his gun on the way out.
  • Scully Box: Sylvia's sky high purple heels.
  • Shown Their Work: While the headscratchers page is chock full of places where this movie goes wrong, the idea of the Timekeepers getting free time forever but paid in daily allotments to deter crimes against them is a pretty sharp idea.
  • Shout-Out: Director Andrew Niccol makes some to his earlier films.
    • The car driven by Will as well as the beach from the Weis Estate are the same ones from Gattaca.
    • The director's wife, actress and supermodel Rachel Roberts (who played the eponymous character in S1m0ne) makes a cameo possibly as a nod to the movie.
  • Skinny Dipping: Will and Sylvia do this at the beach near her mansion.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: But in The Future.
  • Smug Snake: Phillipe Weis, as played by the apparently type-cast Vincent Kartheiser.
  • Social Darwinist: Phillipe Weis, who constantly quotes things like "Survival of the Fittest" and "Natural Selection". His obsession bites him in the ass as it allows Sylvia to easily guess his safe's combination: 12021809 - Charles Darwin's birthday.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Gattaca which is also about a man on the run, trying to disrupt a slobs vs. snobs class system in a crapsaccharine future world.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Sylvia, but only to a certain extent because she isn't the most saintly person around. Still, even though she is the daughter of the richest man in their world and is able to get anything she wants, she doesn't seem to be particularly spoiled or demanding even when reduced to poverty in the ghetto.
  • Spotting the Thread: Will stands out in New Greenwich because he has no bodyguards, runs instead of walking, and eats fast. This makes it pretty easy for the Timekeepers to track him down. Will is able to peg Leon as a former resident of the ghetto in much the same way, since he will take risks his colleagues won't and can keep a running pace with Will.
  • Stealth Pun: The poor are living paycheck to paycheck.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Will kidnaps Sylvia at gunpoint and almost kills her in a car accident. They fall in love.
  • Strip Poker: Will and Sylvia play this.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: It's revealed through the Minutemen and Leon that the whole time system is also self-perpetuating. To win big in the ghetto, for instance, is a death sentence since nobody wants to feel put down. If everyone's poor, after all, then no one deserves any better.
  • Theme Naming: Most of the characters are named after famous watch makers. (Citizen, Victa, Salas, Borel, Fortis, etc.)
  • Too Dumb to Live: Leon actually does this twice (and the second time actually costs him): he's so obsessed with catching Will that he neglects to get his daily time allotment, leaving him with too little time to survive. The first time, Will gives him several hours so he'll survive, since Will is stealing his car and thus access to his allotment. Leon doesn't have that luxury the second time, and Will ends up taking his allotment once Leon times out.
    • Borel dies of alcohol poisoning. As someone who is already established as an alcoholic, he really should know better. Even worse, unless he was buying drinks all around, it's indicated he bought a year's worth of alcohol.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Watching the trailer it looks like Olivia Wilde's character will be a main character and the love interest of Justin Timberlake's character. She is his mother. Oh and she dies in the first half-hour of the film.
  • Watch the Paint Job: It doesn't take long before the shiny new car Will has bought ends up totaled in the ditch with the tires blown up.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Why one of the rich people decides to end it all... Not because he has lived too long, however, but because he can't live with having his immortality.
  • World of Pun: There are quite a few puns in the film along the line of 'time is money' or 'don't waste my time' or 'your money or your life... except your money is your life'.
  • Would Be Rude to Say "Genocide": The government has created a system where each citizen has a gun to his or her head, and people drop dead in the streets (which is commonplace enough that everyone shrugs it off) as these guns are constantly triggered. What to do in such a situation? Why, constantly repeat how 'necessary'' the system is!
    • Nobody mentions the generations before the system was put in place. After all, the government would, effectively, have to force people to have their unborn children undergo genetic therapy to limit their lifespan. At some point, people before the gene therapy would have died from either natural causes or violence.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Overlaps with Ridiculous Future Inflation. Suffice it to say that the (relative) prices given for various items can border on the absurd.
    • Possibly somewhat justified, in that it's implied that the economy is rigidly controlled and prices are set by the government or some central cartel under them based on the need to keep life spans under control, not based on actual value or supply and demand. That leaves them open to problems of command economies, such as shortages, not that the rich would care as they'd still have what they want/need, with first crack at everything.
  • Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: The drive from New Greenwich to Dayton seems to take as long as is necessary to keep the plot going. Early in the movie, Will and Sylvia started to run from the Time Keepers at night, and when they reach Dayton it is almost noon (though it can be assumed that they need to hide somewhere and don't spend the entire night driving). Near the end, Raymond was able to chase them from New Greenwich to Dayton, despite having less than an hour on his clock when the chase started. He also notably avoids taking his own allotment en route, which ultimately kills him.


I, RobotScience Fiction FilmsIron Sky
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alternative title(s): In Time
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