But Niccol fritters it all away with a cookie-cutter chase plot, a dull, derivative visual style and characters who lack all definition. Justin Timberlake struggles to bring a spark of life to the role of Will Salas, the day-at-a-time ghetto punk who hits the temporal jackpot when a suicidal rich kid bequeaths him a century. Upping sticks for swanky New Greenwich, playground of the undying elite, he falls in with bored heiress Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried), but it’s not long before the law starts sniffing around, and the young lovers decide to go crazy, Robin-Hood style.
The clever central conceit aside, there’s nothing new here: despite the presence of stars like Timberlake and Seyfried, the entire film feels incredibly cheap, shot in a series of pseudo-futuristic urban hellscapes which look suspiciously like downtown LA. Attempts at a subtextual link to the current global downturn are largely worthless, as we simply have no idea how this complex world – let alone its economy – functions. But Niccol’s major problem is timing: action sequences and dialogue scenes lie flat on the screen, while his tendency to play around with pacing means that any tension quickly dissipates. Life’s too short.