Tag Archives: andrew niccol

In Time – Review

23 Feb

One thing that I look for in movies is originality, and while the story for In Time may have similarities to previous works in science fiction, it’s still one of the most original movies to come out of Hollywood in a long time, especially in a world of sequels and reboots. Andrew Niccol showed his talent for science fiction in the memorable and boring sci fi film Gattaca, and here we are once again in a futuristic world of his creation. In Time shows a dystopian world that seems fresh and new and for that I give it a lot of credit. Unfortunately, the execution could have been done a hell of a lot better.

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In the future, humans are being genetically engineered to live to the age of 25 and the only way to live longer is to earn more time on a biological clock that is implanted and shown on the left forearm. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is a poor worker who lives day to day with less than 24 hours on his clock. After receiving over 100 years from a suicidal businessman, Salas comes to see how unfair the system is and how the wealthy can live forever. Soon, Salas begins a campaign to break the system along with his hostage turned partner Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) who comes from a wealthy background herself. As the duo continues stealing from the rich to give to the poor, a determined Timekeeper, Ray Leon (Cillian Murphy), remains hot on their trail with a mission to uphold the system of economics already in place.

When this movie first started, I was all for it. The dystopian world that was created was both believable but also anchored in a sort of unspoken history if that makes any sense. I could believe that, by the way people spoke and acted, the world actually got to this point. Also the whole idea of the currency being measured in time made me stressed out. I’m the kind of person that always has to know what time it is, how much time I have to do something, and if I’ll have any time left over. This world would be impossible for me to live in, so the stakes were high. It got the exact reaction out of me that was intended, so I’ll definitely give it that.

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Now let’s take a step back and look at the movie as a whole. The idea is fantastic and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is great as you would suspect, but that’s really where the excellence stops. The word I would use to describe this movie is “serviceable.” Maybe part of the problem was that I went into In Time expecting a whole lot more than I actually got. What the movie turned out to be was a lackluster science fiction Robin Hood/Bonnie and Clyde type story. That’s totally cool, but when the pacing is so weird, the movie just begins to feel uneven and often boring. There isn’t a whole lot of action, which is fine, but when the movie slows down, the scenes of drama and dialogue aren’t especially hard hitting.

The acting talent in this movie is also questionable. Justin Timberlake and Cillian Murphy were just fine in my opinion, but everyone else was either underutilized or not good. Both Olivia Wilde and Johnny Galecki, two actors who were giving good performances, were in it for a total of 10 minutes each. Amanda Seyfried, a main character who was in most of the movie, blew the big one. I never really was a fan of hers, and this just solidifies my opinion. Every line she delivered was hollow or phony and I just didn’t believe her at all. Isn’t that kind of a main requirement for an actor?

In Time works as a mediocre film with a strong sci fi story that just isn’t used well. The acting is hollow and the pacing is just plain awkward. It’s so disappointing that a movie with so much originality and such a great premise is wasted on something that ends up being a derivative popcorn flick that could’ve used a double shot of excitement and cleaning up. I mean, really.

Gattaca – Review

12 Mar

Science is evolving at an alarming rate leaving humanity and our moral standings in the dust. Science doesn’t care about right and wrong, but people do, and that means developments that could be made aren’t. The ethical questions around cloning and stem cell research are interesting and have plausible arguments on both sides. As a science fiction movie, Gattaca shows a world that very well may exist in our not too distant future, and it’s up to you to decide if it’s utopian or dystopian.

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In the future, humanity has figured out a way to genetically modify children before they are even physically conceived. This has created a world full of superior humans who can easily climb their way to the top of any organization or lead any sort of life that they desire. This isn’t true for Vincent (Ethan Hawke), who was born before this scientific discovery with heart problems and the possible growth of mental disorders. Although he is brilliant, these health issues render him inferior in society and completely destroy his goal of traveling to space. He illegally “borrows” the genes of failed swimmer Jerome Morrow (Jude Law). Under the guise of Morrow’s genes, Vincent is finally able to enter the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation and is eventually chosen to travel to the moon of Titan. When a murder is committed at Gattaca, Vincent’s cover risks being blown leaving him dodging the police and obsessively covering his tracks.

This film plays out like an old science fiction novel or short story. The science is never overwhelming or extravagant, but instead feels like it could really happen. There’s plenty to think about after watching Gattaca, especially with the knowledge that we are probably very close to this. Unlike most science fiction films, this feels like more of a drama than anything else. Sure, there is a murder investigation which causes some thrilling and suspenseful scenes, but it’s never really the main point of the story. This leaves the movie feeling uneven at times, especially since the murder investigation takes some interesting twists that aren’t really played up enough. I felt like Andrew Niccol, the writer and director, didn’t know if he wanted to make a thriller or a drama, which creates this weird hybrid.

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I feel like the main idea behind the whole plot is to force the viewers to stop and examine where technology is taking us. The movie needs a story, and it is certainly there, but I was a lot more interested in the setting than anything else. The way this film handles the idea of advancements in technology is a lot different than many science fiction films. I feel like the point of science fiction is to warn us about what we are creating for ourselves. Gattaca can be compared to the film Moon, in my opinion. Like in MoonGattaca doesn’t try to bombard the viewer with awesome special effects and cool looking technology, but paints a picture of how humanity has ultimately failed.

Getting away from the thematic area, I should mention some of the more concrete aspects of the film. Jude Law and Alan Arkin give great performances, with Law proving again how deep he is willing to fall into a character. Uma Thurman is ok, and I was really unimpressed by Ethan Hawke, especially his voice overs which sounded like he was reading right from the script rather than his character directly explaining the story to us. What’s really nice is the production design. The sets all look really nice and very appropriate for the “not too distant” future that is being presented. Niccol and his crew knew the limitations of the technology and never tried to bite more than they could chew with the special effects. It’s a very nice looking movie.

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There is this one awesome scene where Jude Law’s crippled character, Jerome, has to quickly climb this large spiral staircase. This staircase looks a lot like a double helix of DNA, which Jerome has to conquer. That, in a nutshell, is the point of this movie. Humanity should set it’s own goals and not rely on what they are told they can and can not do. This is also a warning. Technology is great, but there are consequences to everything we create or discover. Gattaca isn’t a fantastic movie, but it is quite good. By the end, I was ready for it to be over, but I did enjoy the glimpse into a possible future.