The Oppressive Nature of Capitalism in “In Time”

In Time is a film directed by Andrew Niccol starring Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy that takes place in a distant future where the standard currency is time. The people that make up this future society are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, however, at midnight on their 25th birthday, the timer on their arm, that has been frozen their entire life, starts to count down from 1 year. When the time on their clock reaches zero, they time out or, in simpler terms, they die. The film follows Justin Timberlake’s character Will Salas, a factory worker that lives in Dayton, the lowest of the 12 Time Zones that separate the rich from the poor. One night, Will saves a rich man from New Greenwich, the highest of the Time Zones, and gives Will all his time, 112 years, and then times out. When the authorities in charge of keeping the order, also known as Timekeepers, are alerted to Will, they believe he stole the time given to him and he is forced to go on the run. Through his experience on the run Will starts to understand that there is enough time for everyone to live comfortably, but the rich hoard it all to be immortal.  

With his storytelling throughout In Time, Niccol gives his opinion on capitalism in the United States and the effect it has on people of all classes. The movie opens in Dayton with Will and his mother in their small, tattered apartment. Between the two of them, they have a little less than 2 days on their clocks with lots of bills to pay and they must go to work that day to even stay alive. Both of their jobs consist of manual labor and come with little pay, something that causes issues as prices for everything in Dayton are rising. In showing this extremely tough way of life, Niccol wants the viewer to grasp how difficult poverty-stricken life is. Their situation has much more weight because of the idea of having a timer on their life, but it still portrays how people that live in poverty have to be very frugal and intentional with their resources. Then compare this to the lives of the inhabitants of New Greenwich who have thousands of years on their clock at one time, with hundreds of thousands in the bank. They host luxurious parties, own expensive cars, and own multiple estates all over the world. This is no different than the elites today who can do the very things that the elites in the film can do, however, the social commentary that Niccol is trying to convey to the reader is that of the implications of that elitist lifestyle on those in poverty. The only reason that the small elitist population can continue to live the extravagant lifestyle they do is because of their oppression of the lower Time Zones, continuously raising prices. This is a very obvious nod to capitalism and how it exists to benefit the top 1%. Niccol is trying to deliver the idea that capitalism can only work if a small group of uber-wealthy elites hold the power while the majority of people on the opposite side of the socioeconomic spectrum works long, hard hours to make a significantly less amount of money. As the movie comes to its climax and the eventual end, Will continues to take as much time as possible and give it to the people, an idea that is the exact opposite of capitalism and very obviously portrays Niccol’s negative sentiment towards capitalistic America.