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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. People stop aging at age 25. However, stamped on their arm is a clock of how long they will 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. He is forced to go on the run from a FBI-like police force known as the 'Timekeepers'.

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 Harlan Ellison[1] sued to try to get it withdrawn, but on November 4, 2011, he ultimately agreed to a settlement similar to what he got for The Terminator (i.e. his name will be added to the credits).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.
  • 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. People still need to eat, drink, and may be able to get sick, though.
    • It's implied that all diseases have been cured, at least for the wealthy. It's stated that the wealthy will never die, barring some violent accident.
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: The Weis family has a very Jewish name. This leads to some very Unfortunate Implications (see the YMMV tab for details).
  • Apathetic Citizens: The reason Will's mom dies.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 near is Weis who, to keep things balanced, is actually dark-haired.
  • Cast From Lifespan: 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 quite literally live day to day.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The trick Will's father taught him for winning "fights".
  • 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 totally 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.
    • Crap Saccharine 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.
  • Dawson Casting: An odd example since most important characters even though they look young are often quite old. Cillian Murphy in particular is in his mid 30's playing a character a decade younger (biologically speaking). And Justin Timberlake is in his 30s.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Hot Dad and Hot Mom: When everyone stays 25 forever, this trope is the only logical conclusion.
  • Idle Rich: The rich can actually literally 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 (again deliberately) shoots the dashboard 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 and embrace each other. The same scenario for Will and Sylvia at the climax, only this time Will is able to transfer some of his own time into Sylvia at the very last moment, thus barely avoiding a repeat of the last time he saw his mother.
    • Another positive example in "Is it still stealing if it was stolen to begin with?"
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Pretty much the whole point of the plot is Will stealing time from the immortal and giving it to the dying.
  • 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. 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 the Timekeepers weren't portrayed as anything other than jerks who do 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 staggering interest.
  • Life Will Kill You: Played straight in the story, brutally 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.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Every time poker is played on-screen, Will wins by being dealt great hands.
    • Not really. A pair of Kings vs Ace high in five card draw isn't that spectacular. While the hand definitely counts as important, considering that it was a strip poker game against Amanda Seyfried's character.
  • 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.
    • Or from the suburb next to New York. You know, Trump has a villa there, Maddof did, CEO of Pespi does.. quite a list. Especially as the pronunciation is in American English.
    • And if that's the case then this trope doesn't necessarily count, as Dayton, Ohio is an actual city and an adequate number of hours and miles away from the suburb near New York.
    • Unless the real places were chosen for their names and their real-life uses.
  • 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.
    • Or even regressed. Note that we never see a personal computer, no one seems to communicate through the internet, and people use payphones. In fact, Will's mom dies due to lack of a cell phone.
  • 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.
  • No New Fashions in the Future: In keeping with the above. 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.
  • Older Than They Look
  • 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.
  • 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 the heroine.
  • Properly Paranoid: Philippe Weis.
  • 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 has him shot, 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 an entire hotel. Then he loses almost all of it again, and so on.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The entire cast to varying degrees, considering all humans are genetically engineered to not age after 25.
    • Most of the cast are under 30 in real-time as well, and therefore roughly match up with how they look. However, the rich guy that gives Will his life is over a century, and Weis's mother-in-law is at least old enough that her granddaughter is 27 or so.
    • Weis himself states 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.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: The price of a cup of coffee jumps from 3 minutes to 4 minutes overnight, while the manufacturing quotas increase from week to week in order to obtain one's daily time infusion.
    • It's even more ridiculous that the workers aren't actually told that the quota has been raised until they come to collect at the end of the shift.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules: Raymond Leon, when Weis attempts to bribe him with effective immortality.

 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stealth Pun: The poor are literally 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A Worldwide Punomenon: 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 literally 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, of course!
  • 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. Of course, 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.
    • It is very possible that Leon added time to his own clock en route to Dayton.

Notes

  1. © 2005 Harlan Ellison
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