In the future — I can’t tell you when, but it must be pretty far — people can live forever. The catch is that you need lots of money for that, so things haven’t changed much, really. Since having that happen because of better medical treatments and hormone therapies and such isn’t very dramatic, they have a distinctly sci-fi twist here. When you’re born, you age normally until your 25th birthday. The second you turn twenty-five, your body stops aging and your clock starts ticking down. No, seriously.
In the future — I can’t tell you when, but it must be pretty far — people can live forever. The catch is that you need lots of money for that, so things haven’t changed much, really. Since having that happen because of better medical treatments and hormone therapies and such isn’t very dramatic, they have a distinctly sci-fi twist here. When you’re born, you age normally until your 25th birthday. The second you turn twenty-five, your body stops aging and your clock starts ticking down. No, seriously. There’s a green glowing readout on your left arm that tells you, to the second, how much longer you have to live. It starts at one year, so if you never earn another second (since money is now time), you die at twenty-six.
One obvious problem with this is the impulse to stare at those seconds ticking by. I’d be a compulsive starer, no matter how much time I had left, and I’d never get anything else done. I suppose you get used to it, eventually, but yikes. The other issue that leaps to mind, of course, is how in the world medical science managed to progress to the point of being able to stop aging entirely, but the movie doesn’t go anywhere near that, as you might expect. They also don’t explain how they get those glowing green readouts to be so reliable or so bright. There must be a new caution in the theatres before movies start: “Please shut off all cell phones and make sure that your readout is properly covered.”
There’s a saying about how the greatest gift you can give is time, and suddenly that’s more true than ever. In the ghetto — aka Time Zone 12 — people scramble for every second they can get, sometimes share with their friends, and when you owe somebody a literal piece of their lives, you’d better believe you get hassled a lot for repayment. See what I mean about the drama? Sure, if someone can’t get the fifty bucks back that you owe them, they might end up a little light on food that week, but if they can’t get back that two hours of continued existence that they lent you, you might find yourself stepping over their corpse shortly.
None of the actors are young enough, by the way. I checked. Amanda Seyfried of Red Riding Hood comes closest at twenty-six. It’s probably like filming Logan’s Run, where in the book everyone was supposed to die at 21, a limit which was raised to 30 so they could get some experienced actors. Justin Timberlake, for example, as Will Salas, is thirty. He’s poor and therefore never has much more than a day or two left to live at any given moment. Even just typing that makes me freak out. He and his mother, Rachel (Olivia Wilde of TRON: Legacy), both work like crazy and can never quite get out of debt. His best friend, Borel, is played by Johnny Galecki (Hancock), the senior citizen of the cast at thirty-six. The character is also a terrible alcoholic who drinks most of his time away, in more ways than one, despite having a wife and baby girl, so I guess it isn’t so odd that he might look more than twenty-five.
One day, Matt Bomer of Chuck, decides that he’s had enough of being rich and immortal and tries to commit suicide by being mugged in the slums. Will, not realizing the plan, saves him, and before he knows it, he’s waking up with 116 years on his arm. For the first time ever, he’s hopeful, so of course everything goes hideously wrong. He goes to New Greenwich, which is Time Zone 1, where it’s considered terribly gauche to hurry, and a convertible with all the trimmings will run you 59 years of life, plus tax. It’s perhaps also gauche to be good at poker, since he wipes the floor with the one of the wealthiest guys around, Philippe Weis, played by Vincent Kartheiser, winning another few centuries off him. Weis runs a huge chain of those payday loan stores, though of course in this case, it isn’t your car or furniture you might lose to your debtors.
Instead of police (though they’re still called cops), in this era we have Timekeepers. Timekeeper Raymond Leon is Cillian Murphy, also from TRON: Legacy, and he’s one of the incorruptibles. He’s also kind of a jerk, as it turns out, but somehow I liked him in spite of that, which may have been why I wasn’t terribly interested in the fate of the two main characters, Will and Sylvia Weis, daughter of Philippe.
As you might imagine, not being terribly interested in the two main characters makes movie viewing enjoyment a little difficult. The freak-out factor of how easy it is to die wore off, and then I was left watching a movie about Bonnie and Clyde, with a healthy dose of Robin Hood thrown in, and that wasn’t exactly what I signed up for. Nothing terribly useful is accomplished, nothing much changes, and when the credits rolled I just sort of sighed. So I really can’t go higher than three out of five. I wasn’t horrified at Justin Timberlake’s acting, at least, which was a nice surprise, but even the greatest actor would’ve had some serious trouble making much out of that script, and it’s a shame, because it was an interesting idea. Like Surrogates, they took what could easily have been a very thought-provoking scenario and turned it into an action flick, but unlike Surrogates, they weren’t as entertaining. I do have to give them kudos, though, for reviving the old, old threat of cleaning one’s clock in such an interesting way.