Recently a friend lent me a Blu-ray copy of the movie In Time starring Justin Timberlake. He thought it would be right up my alley. He was right. I will warn you that if you go into this one with too critical of a mind, you will not enjoy it at all. It is not always the best acted and there are some glaring holes in the plot, but it is easily the most original and cleaver story line I have seen in a very long time.
I can tell you this much without ruining the story for you – It is set in the year 2061 where the secret of eternal life has been discovered. However in order to keep the population under control they have to limit the number of years a person can live. Everyone gets the first 25 years at which time you stop aging. After that a digitally installed clock implanted in your arm starts and you have one more year. I know, not a radical departure for a sci-fi flick so far. The novel part of the story is this; time is now money… literally. People are paid for working with minutes, hours and days, all added to you arm clock, (which they sometimes call a ‘watch’). Everything you purchase you must pay with time which is immediately subtracted from your clock. A cup of coffee for example costs 3 minutes. So every purchase and decision you make determines how much longer you live. People who run out of time die instantly, which they refer to as ‘clocking out’. There are time bandits, so to speak, that are called ‘minutemen’ and police that are called ‘time keepers’. People of different economic status live in different ‘time zones’. The plays on words go on and on. The expression “I’m running out of time” will wear a little thin for some, but I didn’t mind it.
I don’t want to give away too much, but Timberlake’s character Will Salas discovers that there is actually enough time to go around for everyone to live a reasonably long life, but the ‘rich’ have figured out a way to hoard the time to themselves and some have 100’s or 1000’s of years. They loan and broker time at unreasonable rates of interest (advertised as Time Shares) and ensure that the poor die young so that they can live forever.
The social commentary that the producers are making is clearly a reference to the modern day manipulation by the rich of the world’s financial system, stockmarket, banking etc. And make no mistake about it, like a slot machine at the casino, the whole system is rigged so that they will win and you will lose. The economic meltdown of 2008 that caused some two million Americans to lose there homes since that time was completely man made. Known today as the sub-prime mortgage crisis, using a complicated scheme of investments and mortgages companies like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Countrywide Mortgage and others effectively assured that millions of people would be put into homes with mortgages that could not afford. When the homes were forced into foreclosure, which they knew was inevitable, it was not the banks that would lose, but individual investors and pension funds that were sold the bad mortgages bundled as high quality investment instruments. Many people lost both their homes and their pensions. Instead of sending the CEO’s of these companies to jail, which they should have, the Bush and Obama administrations then gave them a trillion dollars in bailout money. These companies then went out and used the bailout money to purchase stocks at rock bottom prices in a market that collapsed under the weight of the crisis they created. They made billions and gave themselves multi-million dollar bonuses for ruining the lives of others. It seems almost too bizarre to be true but I assure you it is. I wrote a blog on it with more detail back in 2009, you can read it here: GREED
And you absolutely need to take the time to watch this parody done about it by John Bird and John Fortune. It is the most accurate and entertaining description you will ever find of the criminal nature of the global economic meltdown.
Getting back to the movie, for me the most important message of In Time was not the metaphor for financial corruption and greed. For me it was Will’s (Timberlake) attitude towards time. Throughout the entire movie his clock is always running down to zero, but whatever time he does have he freely shares with others. For me, that alone made the movie. While most others were hoarding and protecting very minute, he is giving it away regardless of how little he has. I am always inspired by people of generosity.
The reality is that today people’s most precious commodity is ‘time’. Rush, rush, rush… and because we have become so busy we would rather give up our money than our time. With the exception of the church, volunteerism is way down in North America. People would rather throw a few dollars at some worthy cause than actually get personally involved. Most have become very stingy with their time. And it is not like we are using it wisely. Folks will spend hours in front of a TV watching shows like Dancing with the Fat American Celebrity Losers and even more time in front of a computer screen managing cyber friends and shopping on Amazon.
Eph 5:16 declares redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Time really is our most precious commodity. Unlike Will Salas we never really know how much we have left on the clock. We really need to quit wasting our time and live everyday to the fullest and maybe, just as importantly, we need to start giving it away. The only thing that we do on this earth that really matters in eternity is what we did for another person. The money we made, the car we drove and the house we lived in is all forgotten by the time we have cooled in the grave. But the ‘time’ we gave away to make this world a better place for another… that lives on for eternity.