Cillian Murphy on the concepts behind In Time
From last month’s Clash.
Inception, The Dark Knight, 28 Days Later, Sunshine: it’s clear that Cillian Murphy can pick a script that balances blockbuster thrills with a cerebral undercurrent. Now he’s back on the big screen with a key role in Andrew Niccol’s futuristic flick In Time. It presents a world in which time is the ultimate currency. People have been genetically engineered to stop ageing at the age of twenty-five with the condition that upon reaching that milestone, they have just a year to live: the rich become near immortal, the poor live hour-to-hour.
Murphy plays Raymond Leon, a timekeeper whose job is to maintain equilibrium by making sure that “time” doesn’t get in the wrong hands. So when Justin Timberlake’s character Will Salas goes on the run after being falsely accused of murder, Leon follows hot on his trail.
Like Salas, Leon is originally from the ghetto. “He sees a fork in the road where he went one way and could’ve gone the other way. I was intrigued by that, and I also love the idea of the hunter and the hunted,” explains Murphy. “These two characters gain respect for each other throughout the course of the movie, like in films like The Fugitive or Heat where they’re on opposite sides of the law but they’re almost mirror versions of each other.”
Murphy confesses that he hadn’t seen Timberlake act in any films until he saw The Social Network: “He has what you can’t manufacture: charisma.” He also reserves praise for the film’s writer/director Niccol, best known for crafting Gattaca and writing The Truman Show: “It’s always great working with a director who’s also the writer because you have a direct line to his brain. He can answer every question for you. He’s very involved with the look of the movie. I think he achieves that brilliantly because there’s a very fine line in creating a future. It has to be recognisable but also recognisably different.”
In Time raises issues such as class warfare and the ethics behind mankind’s quest for everlasting life, but it’s also a visceral experience. “It doesn’t wear its intelligence on its sleeve, it’s disguised in the form of rollickingly good entertainment,” summarises Murphy. “Films like this should be about reaching out to a broad audience. If this makes you think about something, good. But you can also just focus on the really elaborate car chases.”