Paranoia may be one of the first films to come close to approximating Millennials’ relationship with technology in that it’s as repulsed by the gadgets it showcases as it is fascinated by them. It’s a shame, then, that the film could not deliver on this glint of early promise to offer something that delved deeper into an exploration of that theme. Instead, it quickly devolves into just another slick espionage thriller.
Ostensibly about a tech-savvy Millennial, Liam Hemsworth’s Adam Cassidy, who gets caught in the shadow of two warring tech giants, Gary Oldman’s Nick Wyatt and Harrison Ford’s Jock Goddard, Paranoia doesn’t actually seem to be about anything or have anything of its own to say. What’s strange is the film seems to playfully acknowledge this. At one point Wyatt quotes Steve Jobs quoting Pablo Picasso when discussing the nature of creativity, “Good artists borrow; great artists steal!” And director Robert Luketic certainly seems to believe in that idea, as his film is cobbled together from the bits and pieces of better or more interesting films. There’s a bit of The Firm, and other properties based on John Grisham novels, in the way Paranoia reveals the duplicitous nature of the parties involved. Paranoia seems obsessed with the fleeting notion of reality in 70s thrillers like The Conversation and Parallax View; the idea that what we know, or rather what we think we know, isn’t actually what’s there – it’s simply an image being cast by others to deceive us into a false sense of comfort. But more than any of those other films, Paranoia heavily cribs beats in its plot and character interactions from Oliver Stone’s Wall Street; even the admittedly entertaining sparring session between Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman, the film’s high point, recalls the testosterone-fueled rivalry between Gordon Gekko and Sir Lawrence Wildman in that film.
That isn’t to say Paranoia doesn’t do anything right. If nothing else, the casting is spot on where it matters. Gary Oldman affects a British accent to cast a wickedly droll interpretation of corporate evil, while Harrison Ford conjures the ghost of Steve Jobs in a part that’s equally charming and abrasive. If the film could have found a way to allow those two to spit passive-aggressive barbs at each other for its duration, it might have had something. But it doesn’t. Instead, it affixes its gaze on a story that’s been done before, moves from Point A to B by means of contrivances that rely on its supposedly brilliant characters to react in the least intelligent ways possible, and then tries to wrap everything up in the most implausible manner imaginable. Paranoia isn’t simply about nothing; it’s a movie that in three months will be nothing, lost in the tide of other numerous, slick Hollywood thrillers, possibly better, or maybe worse, but all doing the same things this movie attempts.
Paranoia opens today in Philly area theaters.