Both apply the brutally belaboured metaphor of time as money and depict a class of indentured post-industrial serfs slaving away at pointedly mindless tasks for, in Brookerverse, the "merits" (Facebook likes times retweets times pounds) they need to buy everything from toothpaste to ad-skipping, and for the doomed residents of the In Time ghetto literally the minutes and hours they need to keep their hearts beating. Both depict a vast underclass grinding away to support a neofeudal aristocracy (in the one case of bankers, in the other a thinly-disguised Simon Cowell analogue celebrity freak-wrangler). Both offer the same escape routes for their doomed underclass - blind chance, inheritance and gambling.
So far so mind-numbingly obvious. The funny bit is that I paid thirty quid to take my parents to see In Time and we sat through maybe half an hour of ads while watching 15 Million Merits.
The message "you are idiots and slaves" has the potential, at least, to be interesting and provocative. The message "you are idiots and slaves who will pay us ten pounds a seat and sit through half an hour of commercial messages to be told you are idiots and slaves" is meta-absurdist satire. It as if the puppeteer showed Punch the strings, as if Beckett had climbed onto the stage with Didi and Gogo and whispered in their ears that they were characters a play, as if the Queen of hearts on hearing that she and her court were nothing more than a pack of cards had continued as if nothing had changed.
Art that so flagrantly takes the piss out of life - out of its own audience - is a rather wonderful level of satire. I tip my hat to Mr Brooker, and especially for the audacity of saying of his audience, in his recent Q&A "don’t think we did portray them as fucked in the head really". Come now, Mr Brooker. That we are so fucked in the head we will actually pay you money to tell us we are fucked in the head is precisely what you are saying, and the comedy is in the fact that we love you for it.