We always hear that the best investment is one where there is little risk but big reward. In today’s movie business, such an investment is a rare occurrence. It is infrequent for production studios to know ahead of time that they have a sure-fire hit. The current box office climate has shown turmoil as big movies are flopping left and right. What once seemed to appeal to a majority of audiences is no longer drawing in the same size crowd. Perhaps popular taste has changed or splintered, or maybe it is the cost of going to the movies which has been driving some people away. Regardless of the reason, Paranoia is a film caught in the middle of this dilemma.
Paranoia seems like a film that was meant for release 10 years ago. Sure, it has a story that revolves around cutting-edge electronics, but that fact does little to distract you from the film makers’ archaic methods. This is a movie that tries very hard to make you like it. It does this by using techniques and story archetypes that have worked well in the past, but these “hooks” feel forced and riddled with cliché. If there was a tried-and-true checklist, this movie would have nearly all the boxes filled in. It assumes you’ll cheer when the super-rich get escorted to jail, and that you think it is obligatory for the male protagonist to often be shirtless. It even tries to fill you in with a cheesy voice-over exposition at the beginning. There’s not really anything going on here that’s original or new.
In other words, this is a strictly a by-the-numbers affair. It doesn’t go so far as requiring you to switch off your mind in order for it to make sense, but it doesn’t really give you much to think about in return. The story is a thriller, full of moments that wouldn’t be out of place in an espionage film, but everything feels very generic. The most interesting aspect is perhaps the feud between two tech industry giants which is used to drive the story forward. However, the film doesn’t seem to dwell on this friction any longer than it needs to keep the protagonist occupied. Paranoia isn’t compromised by a poor story, bad acting or technical deficiencies. It suffers from complacency and unwillingness to push the envelope. For this reason, Paranoia is ultimately doomed. It’s typical profit-first Hollywood at it again. Audiences don’t want to feel like they’re being taken advantage of, and therefore will (and should) stay clear.
Story: Adam Cassidy is a 20-something tech wiz who unexpectantly finds himself out of a job. He is contacted by Nicholas Wyatt, the rich billionaire owner of the tech company where he was previously employed. Wyatt offers Cassidy a new kind of job offer. Cassidy has to go undercover and spy on Wyatt’s rival company, who is owned by Jock Goddard. Goddard and Wyatt have a deep history and their relationship is one of fierce competition. If Cassidy refuses, his life and the lives of everyone he cares about could be in danger. Cassidy does what he is told and rises in rank at his new undercover job, but soon he notices that something isn’t right. Can he figure it out soon enough and untangle the lies before it costs him his life?…Okay (5.0/10)
Acting: Liam Hemsworth gets his first major leading role here as Adam Cassidy. Although he seems to be up to the challenge, his character is pretty generic and kind of boring. Liam’s problem will forever be that he will be compared with his brother, who has more charisma. Amber Heard plays his love interest, and her character and performance feels uneven. Gary Oldman puts on his best Michael Caine impression to play Nicholas Wyatt, and the result is perhaps the most interesting character in the film. Oldman’s scenes are definitely the best in the film as he is the only one who is really able to channel the emotion and desperation that the script requires. Harrison Ford plays Wyatt’s nemesis Jock Goddard. At first I thought this was an odd role for Harrison Ford but eventually he charmed his way into it. Ford doesn’t feel like he fits in this movie as a tech mogul, but does well enough. The supporting cast is rather plain and in some cases the acting is actually pretty bad. Okay (6.0/10)
Direction: Robert Luketic is the director. He is mostly known for romantic comedies before he tried something different with 2008’s 21. His lack of experience with thrillers really shows. The entire film lacks a cohesive style to tie everything together. Some moments feel like they are trying to play off of the technology-themed storyline with crisp visuals, bright lights, and fast camera work. At other times the film is soft and too airy. Some of the camera angles are very awkward, not capturing the space well or giving the audience a good perspective. There are also a lot of non-sequiturs that distract from the film – pointless scenes or redundant sequences. Overall, Luketic fails to create the engaging, desperate, and edgy tone that the story requires. Instead he gets distracted by doing what he knows – romantic interludes and dreamy moments. Bad (4.5/10)
Special Effects/X-Factor: While the movie is all about cutting-edge technology, the special effects and action are not. Computer screens look hokey, the “futuristic” technology on display is lackluster, and the action is mostly people running. The camera even shakes around a little bit to try and tell you that something action-related is happening in case you get confused. Overall, this film doesn’t manage to deliver on what it is supposed to be. Thrillers shouldn’t be boring. This film is dull and gets sidetracked too easily. Furthermore, you know you are in trouble when your main character is not the most interesting part of the film. The film makers were clearly too concerned about offending anyone so they tried to make it as generic and appealing as they could. Instead, nothing really stands out and now we have a film that nobody wants to see. Bad (3.5/10)
What’s Good: The feud between Ford and Oldman’s characters is powerful and interesting, a few good ideas come to the surface.
What’s Bad: Recycles every old trick in the book, the director doesn’t really do his job, overall the acting isn’t great, sub-par special effects, and an overall generic feeling.
Verdict: How many clichés can you spot?!?!