On paper, In Time had the potential to be one of the most intriguing original sci-fi projects to come along in a while. Writer and director Andrew Niccol was more than familiar with both the genre and high concept stories displaying heavy thematic resonance, having penned and helmed the acclaimed Gattaca, while he also landed an Academy Award nomination for scripting The Truman Show.
His blackly comedic Nicolas Cage crime drama Lord of War also showed he was no slouch in the action department, so hopes were understandably high. Set in the distant future of 2169, time is literally money. The poor are forced to work menial jobs to provide them with enough life to get them through the day, while the wealthy are effectively immortal.
That’s certainly a unique conceit, and one that opened itself up to plenty of sociopolitical commentary. Justin Timberlake‘s Will Salas saves a rich man from a gang of thieves, and receives 100 years of life for his troubles. Naturally, the working class inheriting such riches draws the attention of the authorities, sending him on the run with a false murder accusation hanging over his head.
In Time could have been something truly special, but it never maximized its own potential. The narrative was muddled and the storytelling heavy-handed, but it still managed to earn $174 million at the box office on a $40 million budget, despite a middling 37% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s now finding a new lease of life on Netflix, where the sci-fi action thriller can be found as one of the platform’s 20 most-watched titles.