Andrew Niccol

In Time is so crammed with provocative ideas it begins to feel over-crowded. At some time in a future that looks like the recent past of Los Angeles, human aging has been stopped at twenty-five. At that point of perfection, everyone has one year left to live, and their remaining span registers as a luminous green set of numbers (their “watch”), printed on the forearm. But this situation has turned time into the new money, and so—in the way of the world—some people are richer than others. People still look like twenty-five when they are eighty.

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It is 1940, somewhere in Soviet-occupied Poland. A Pole is being interrogated; he has been beaten. Then a woman is called in, his wife; some torture has degraded her. She informs on her man; he will be sent to a gulag. The horror is clear, but the feeling is everyday and commonplace.

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It's not an easy thing to balance jocular irony and geopolitical earnestness in a film, and it's harder still when it's a film about war. David O. Russell somehow managed the feat in his 1999 Three Kings; Andrew Niccol fell somewhat short in his 2005 Nicholas Cage vehicle Lord of War; and now Richard Shepard has missed the mark altogether in The Hunting Party. At the opening of the film onscreen text informs us that "Only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true." This playful boast is utter hogwash, as viewers will soon conclude themselves.

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The basic idea of The Terminal, Steven Spielberg's new film, comes from the story of an Iranian citizen who became trapped in a Paris airport with an invalid passport. He could neither enter France nor go home. With this fact as base, Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson have fashioned a screenplay for Spielberg--original story by Gervasi and Andrew Niccol--set in the international terminal of Kennedy Airport in New York. That basic idea is stimulating. Airports, as experiences, are haunting.

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