Welcome to ‘In Time,’ where life ends at 25, unless you pay the price

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.

In Time

Directed by Andrew Niccol. With Alex Pettyfer, Vincent Kartheiser, Justin Timberlake, Matthew Bomer, Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, Amanda Seyfried, Elena Satine, Ethan Peck. Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Running time: 1 hours, 49 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for violence, some sexuality and partial nudity, and brief strong language).