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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Paranoia Review. The Film Doesn't Convince Us That Smartphones Are Taking Over The World.

Paranoia Review 
By: MattInRC

The slick but superficial Paranoia doesn't convince us that smartphones are taking over the world.

If you listen to futurists, our society is headed in one of two directions. The first is envisioned by Star Trek, where society will exist in peace and happiness, free from the limitations of hunger while still in control of our privacy. The other view, proposed by thrillers such as Tom Cruise's Artificial Intelligence, is that powerful interests are scheming to collect data about our lives so that it can control everything we see and hear. The corporate espionage thriller Paranoia seeks to align itself with the latter, but fails to convince us that our privacy may be in danger.

After the handsome but naive protege Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) and his team are fired from tech giant Wyatt Corp after a failed presentation, Cassidy is offered a different kind of job: work for rival Eikon and steal their newest blueprints for the next generation of smartphones. Cassidy is deep in debt, forced to care for his ailing father (Richard Dreyfuss), and making him an unwitting player in a war he cannot win. The generals here are corporations, led by the unscrupulous Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) and the elder statesman Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford), former partners whose disassociation years ago is about to enter its final phase. As Cassidy rises in the ranks at Eikon, he's tempted by the FBI to turn state's evidence, as the web of lies and murder woven by Wyatt become more apparent. Moreover, his romantic involvement with Eikon's marketing director Emma Jennings (Amber Heard) is merely an effort to steal her passcodes in order to gain entrance into an R&D vault where the smartphone is located. Plummeting down the rabbit hole and running out of options, Cassidy must find a way to save his skin before Wyatt and Goddard's high-stakes game consumes him and all that he cares for.

As good and enjoyable as it is, Paranoia could have been better. Hemsworth is totally out of his league here, both in star power and ability. He's just not ready for the kind of prime time seriousness that his brother Chris now commands. Ford and Oldman's characters play Cassidy like a fiddle throughout, and it doesn't necessarily reflect well upon the youngster Hemsworth. Heard is effective only as a snarky 'I'm waiting to be impressed' figure - her absences through entire chunks of the film are hardly noticed, and her cold demeanor (even in love scenes) never approaches boiling. Director Robert Luketic has a nice eye from slow-motion shots and pretty scenes, and he nabs two excellent actors who should have been working together sooner. Ford adds another convincing performance to his comeback tour, while Oldman does the psychotic nasty dude extremely well. Having raised them to deserved heights, you can only do so much with a flawed script, and Screenwriters Jason Dean Hall and Barry Levy steal every plot twist from previous corporate thrillers, reflecting a line from Oldman's character that, "Nothing original is left." There's a totally unnecessary 'Mea Culpa' epilogue and several critical pieces about our characters are missing, while other aspects of the plot are either never resolved or not resolved enough. Unlike this year's earlier and much better Snitch with Dwayne Johnson, Paranoia doesn't do a good enough job of empowering Cassidy with enough intelligence or gravitas to do more than simply look good on screen. The potentially memorable resolution falls flat, making us wonder if Editor Dany Cooper should also share in the blame.

Paranoia is a good rainy day thriller that never exceeds its high expectations. If society is really headed for a future where privacy is controlled by corporations and smartphones, this film doesn't quite put the pieces together to make a convincing argument. An edit here, a better job of casting there, and we might have been praising its message. Paranoia is rated PG-13 for sexuality, language, and violence and has a runtime of 106 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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