Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011 by Germain Lussier
Walking around the set of the upcoming sci-fi action film, In Time, is a smorgasbord of physical perfection. Attractive guys and girls are everywhere and even during an interview with the film’s stars, it’s hard not to glance behind them at the veritable fashion runway parading to craft services.
The reason everyone on set is so beautiful is that, in the world of in the world of In Time, the human body stops aging at 25. At that point, a genetic clock on your wrist begins counting down your final year of life. Through various legal, or illegal means, you can accrue time on your clock and hypothetically live-forever looking 25. Or you can run out of time and die, leaving nothing but good-looking corpse.
Only in this world can can Olivia Wilde be the mother of Justin Timberlake, Vincent Kartheiser be the father of Amanda Seyfried or Cillian Murphy play a gritty, 70-year-old detective. And this conceit could only come the mind of Andrew Niccol, the brainchild behind The Truman Show, S1mone and Gattaca, which also dealt with mortality.
“I think of [In Time] as the bastard child of Gattaca because [when I was making it] I thought the holy grail of genetic engineering, of course, is to find the aging gene and switch it off,” Niccol said, “But then the implications are so huge that I thought ‘That’s another movie.’ And it turns out, it’s become another movie.”
In an era where movie fans consistently bitch about a lack of original ideas, In Time is just that and on day 44 of a 54-day shoot, /Film was lucky enough to be on the Los Angeles set of the October 28th release, speaking to the stars, director, producer and learning that this world might look great, but is anything but. Read the full set visit after the jump
The Set Up
As stated above, in the world of In Time, everyone lives until they are 25 and that’s as old as you’ll ever look. But at that time, your clock starts ticking. Twenty-two hours left to live? Better go to work or you won’t wake up tomorrow. Twenty-two minutes to live? You’ll kill for more time. It’s “the literal demonstration of living in the moment” according to Niccol.
Then there are the wealthy who might have twenty-two centuries stored away and live in constant fear of getting sick or hurt. “It’s a boring life just to sit around and trying not to die,’ said Seyfried of the time-rich people in the movie. “Everybody has a bodyguard, everybody eats egg whites and tries to stay healthy. It’s a very mundane existence”
“There’s this great line in the movie that ‘The poor die and the rich don’t really live,’” added producer Eric Newman (Children of Men, The Thing). He was the first to greet us on set and, besides introducing us to this world, he filled us in on the story.
The film centers on a futuristic Bonnie & Clyde team, Will Salas and Sylvia Weis (Timberlake and Seyfried) who end up trying to right the wrong’s of the world. Will is a poor mill worker who is framed for murder after getting a bunch of time he didn’t earn. Sylvia is a well-to-do girl whose father lives in the rich part of town, New Greenwich, and runs a time bank. Once they hook up they’re hunted by a cop, played by Cillian Murphy, as well as a crime boss, played by Alex Pettyfer, who engages in a literal game of strong arming where he can extract time directly from your body and vice versa. What begins as more of a personal story for each character slowly develops into something bigger than they could have imagined. They stand up in the face of an entire society.
Robbing a Bank
In today’s scene, we’ll see a large armored truck – the vehicle of choice for a time-wealthy person who doesn’t want to get injured while driving – crash and stick-up Timelenders, one of Sylvia’s father’s time banks. Think of it like a sci-fi Robin Hood scene.
By using time instead of money, In Time not only sets up a unique sci-fi world, it conveniently creates a mirror image of our society where a smaller percentage of the population control a huge percentage of the wealth. “It’s an interesting, subversive piece that kind of mirrors in a way our economical situation today,” according to Timberlake. But this film seems to say life isn’t about time or money, it’s about what you do with them.
“When you’re in the ghetto it’s vibrant and it’s alive and the people are using their time to the fullest,” Newman said. “And you get to the more rarefied air of New Greenwich and the pace is different, the look of things, the sort of loneliness of it. It’s cold. It’s very safe.”
Back to the shot at hand. Roger Deakins is the DP on In Time and it’s his first digital film. The first shot of his we see is from inside Timelenders and there’s an armored car outside. Minutes pass as the crew sets up for what is expected to be a loud crash. We’re pushed back almost across the block, just to be safe, in view only of two flat screen monitors. Everyone gets quiet, “Action” is called and the truck begins to move. It’s picking up speed now. But just as it’s about to smash through the glass wall, the truck stops dead. Awkward silence envelops the set as “Cut” is called. Laughter and jokes ensue.
On the next take the truck smashes beautifully through the window with the kind of loud crash you’d expect from an armored car crashing through the front of the building. One take is all they need for a shot that will be milliseconds in the film. Reaction shots of people scattering through the street were shot earlier in the day.
Zip It Up
We’re then presented with a look at the storyboards for the day, nine pages in total, and a bunch of stills from the film that give us an idea of the look. With the trailers now out, you already have an idea of the slick, dapper look of the clothing. Everything has just a tweak of futuristic. However, one of the interesting details is that because time is so precious in the movie, the poor people dress with zippers, no buttons. The more buttons you have, you are obviously richer because you have time to do that kind of thing. “Where my character comes from, we don’t have time to walk at a normal pace, we have to move quickly,” Timberlake said. “Running is a huge character of the movie, because it relates to the time that you don’t have to live.” It’s that type of details that’s being put into In Time.
And though the film has an interesting conceit, there’s no real science behind it. No “insect in the amber,” as Newman put it. Niccol does describe time as “the natural electricity in your body” where a body is like car with a “bad gas gauge” but there’s no set answer on how much time there is in the world or how it began. We just have to buy into this idea of time as money that pays for everything: drugs, prostituting, charity.
From one line to Barnum and Bailey
After some interviews and lunch, we’re escorted back across the street into the warehouse to see what happens after the truck smashes into Timelenders. Timberlake and Seyfried do a few rehearsals of jumping out of the truck, running into the vault (seen above) and filling up a suitcase with time, which is stored in almost 8-Track shaped units called time capsules (also seen above). You take these and attach them to your right arm and the countdown clock on your left arm shows your time go up.
After one rehearsal, we see our first take. The actors jump out of the truck, into the vault, fill up the suitcase but, this time, the assistant director screams “Sirens.” The actors stop as if alarmed (Seen above. Actually, the photo above is exactly what we saw shot). A huge group of extras then start to flood into the frame. The camera pushes in from inside the vault. Both our stars are in silhouette from behind.
“Timeshare loans offers interest free loans with no payments,” says Will and everyone rushes in to grab as much time as they can. Cut.
On the second take, Timberlake slips on the floor and adds a bit more to his lines of dialogue. A small group, myself included, is brought right next to the action for take three. Niccol says to Timberlake “I need to feel a Barnum and Bailey thing…and have Amanda join in” which the actors understand and get back into the truck to try again. I notice broken glass everywhere, extras who aren’t even in the shot dressed up perfectly so the actors have something to react to and smoke beginning to billow up. Action.
Timberlake and Seyfriend jump out of the van, both on the driver’s side. He wields a gun pointing it around then gets into the huge safe and starts filling up their case. Sirens. They stop. People start to pour into the Timelenders. Will walks to the edge of the vault.
“Timeshare Loans offers interest free loans with no payments,” he says.
“Ever” adds Sylvia.
“Take a week, take a month,” Will says
“It’s free…Go!” screams Sylvia and they’re off as the extras excitedly pile into the vault.
I think the take is perfect and I tell the publicist so. He laughs. One more group gets to go so we’ll see at least one more take. Each subsequent take has gotten better, more complex, and all looked gorgeous. Niccol and Deakins have composed a beautiful frame with camera movement that tells the story and more.
After the fourth take, Niccol is happy. Timberlake disappears while Seyfried comes back to the craft services and grabs a hot dog, no bun, and covers it up with a ton of condiments. She also has her own dog on set, a gorgeous chocolate-colored retriever.
There’s no telling if audiences are going to buy the world of In Time. It could very-well be too confusing, Justin Timberlake might not be convincing as an action star or maybe there will be too much box office competition come October 28. But having been on set, people were passionate about the idea, exhibiting creativity and really excited about it. So am I. “I think a big reason why I said ‘Yes’ to this movie is because when I finished it, it made me ask so many questions about myself.” Timberlake said. “And that’s an interesting exercise. So hopefully the audience will have that same experience.”
We’ll find out on October 28.