IN THE PARALLEL sci-fi universe of "In Time," scientists have capped the aging process at 25, and rich people have turned time into a commodity.
You die when you hit your limit of 25 years (there's been a little deflation since "Logan's Run"), but if you can literally buy more time, you can live indefinitely as a 25-year-old.
Thus is born a cutthroat economy in which poor people work, cheat and steal for a few extra units of time in their blue collar ghetto, while in a nearby posh suburb the idle rich gamble vast stores of accumulated time in poker games.
"In Time" is the work of writer-director Andrew Niccol, whose genetic-engineering thriller "Gattaca" is one of the smarter sci-fi movies of recent years, referenced by Ph.D.s and used to teach bioethics at universities.
"Gattaca" expressed Niccol's suspicion that DNA meddling would be used to create a favored class of people, ideas that are echoed in "In Time."
It's a scathing critique of predatory, everything's-a-commodity capitalism, and Niccol's vision of a society in which a privileged 1 percent sit atop a desperate 99 percent seems eerily well-timed.
Folks may also get a kick out of Niccol's kooky dystopia - people stop aging at 25, and the world stopped aging in the 1970s, judging by the souped-up circa-'72 Torinos, the Muzak, and the references to Patty Hearst.
Justin Timberlake plays a ghetto hustler and social reformer who gets the gift of 100 years from a suicidal rich guy, and uses it to infiltrate wealthy society for the purpose of dismantling it. He kidnaps a rich girl (Amanda Seyfried) who becomes his hostage/accomplice, and together they go on a crime/time spree that calls attention to societal inequities and sparks a revolt.
Chasing them is a "time keeper," a sort of cop, played by Cillian Murphy, distantly related to Agent Smith of "Matrix," or anyone from "The Adjustment Bureau."
Niccol's "In Time" feels a tad derivative, and is much less successful than "Gattaca" in giving us the nuts and bolts of a good thriller.
Timberlake's character seems unforgivably fuzzy on the details of his own insurrection, although he's understandably distracted by Seyfried, who looks smashing as a redhead.
The bottom line, though, is how you feel about the 100 minutes of your life you expend on "In Time," and I'm afraid you may want most of them back.