The trailer for Paranoia makes it seem like a fairly cheap techno thriller starring Liam Hemsworth, because he’s famous right? Towards the end of this trailer the two real famous people (and stars), Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, participate in a shouting match. Oldman as Nick Wyatt furiously yells that Ford playing Jock Goddard “stood on his shoulders!” to which Ford growls back that “now I’m standing on your throat.” That’s the bit that got me into the theaters. Now having seen Paranoia that scene is easily the best thing in this film. Everything else about this film is under developed, smart by half, not all that thrilling thriller, that attempts to be all about morality and class struggle. In reality it falls to unearned cliches to wrap everything up.
This film is actually based off of a 2004 novel of the same name. The film takes the basic techno thriller plot but wraps it all in topical post 2008 financial crisis 99% vs 1% class struggles. The first third of this film is actually kind of enjoyable. It’s has some stylish montages of New York, in an alternate universe the story becomes about Adam Cassidy and his cadre of overeducated under - well unemployed after minute 10 - friends who form a start up and stick it to the man. Bringing forth a return of moralistic business practices that treat employees well. This eventually happens in our universe. There is just a paint by numbers corporate thriller in between all that isn’t entertaining.
Adam Cassidy bought into the American Dream. He went to a good school, got all the good grades wrote a thesis. Yet he still finds himself as a lowly entry developer at Wyatt tech after years of service. Constantly shut out by the corporate machine who refuses to see his greatness. After misusing the corporate account, Cassidy finds himself turned into a corporate spy for Wyatt in hopes of finally beating his old partner, Jock Goddard. The pair of technological titans are cheap stand ins for what if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak had a bad falling out and became bitter enemies. Goddard and his Eikon corpratation are on the eve of a smart phone revolution. Wyatt needs this if he hopes at staving off his former partner from buying him out.
Liam Hemsworth’s utter lack of leading man charisma makes this entire film, which is admittedly not that good, even less enjoyable to watch. In the context of the film his Reeves esque level of acting fit perfectly. Adam Cassidy is ephemeral he isn’t really a character. He is exactly what the rich businessmen say he is. Scribes Barry L. Levy and Jason Dean Hallen show a bit of awareness by having Cassidy struggle for agency but ultimately fail. He’s a puppet on strings and is being pulled in all directions by Wyatt, Goddard, and the FBI. This bit of awareness does not heighten or make the thriller plot of Paranoia any more thrilling or less generic. Other than a bit of an homage to Sneakers starring Robert Redford the overall plot of this movie is bland and forgettable.
But then there is that scene from the trailer. Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford yelling at eachother about standing on each other's person. Oldman and Ford make the most with the little they are given. Oldman manages to do more than Ford thanks to his ability to emote and now sound like a stereotypical crotchety old man. Ford does his angry old man routine, which is just enough. Together they make this film worth at least worth watching on cable if you are bored.
Paranoia blusters about with ideas of class struggle and amorality. That’s all it is: bluster. Once it comes time to close up shot it falls onto underdeveloped romance angles and cliches about knowing right from wrong. The use of cliches isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply a matter of earning them. This film doesn't earn anything.
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