Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) makes an interesting observation in the opening monologue to Paranoia, available now on home video. He talks about how he belongs to a generation whose futures were stolen out from under them.
Paranoia is one of the first honest, albeit sometimes mindless, films about that generation.
Adam is a young, ambitious man who dreams of a bigger life, bigger salary … bigger everything. However, the days have changed, and the American dream is becoming more and more of well, a dream. That’s something to which any young and ambitious person in America today (there aren’t many left) can relate.
After losing his job at a tech company, his boss asks him to break the law and become a corporate spy. Adam reluctantly agrees and soon becomes a pawn in a vicious game between two corporate rivals portrayed by Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford.
Hollywood loves to attack business. Most in the town hate business with every fiber of their being despite being business people themselves. They rail against capitalism and endorse violent groups like Occupy Wall Street. Luckily, Paranoia mostly stays away from typically railing against capitalism even as it jumps into the world of corporate espionage.
What Paranoia does rail against is corporatism which is something even the Right can agree is a dangerous and destructive thing. However, this is still a Hollywood movie and what the film dumbly chooses to ignore is the fact that corporatism is a direct result of government corruption, bureaucracy and intervention. If you want to look at who stole our future, just look to the same people sitting in office that decided some companies were simply too big too fail and the middle class needed to bail them out one way or another.
But I digress. Paranoia is a surprisingly pro-capitalist feature. Adam’s ambition and individuality are never shown in a negative light. In fact, the final stretch of the movie celebrates these qualities and the idea of pure capitalism trumping corporatism. Despite not having the balls to really take on the issues and throw the government into the cross-hairs, Paranoia is still a surprisingly honest film when it comes to ideology.
Another intriguing concept from the script, adapted from the novel by Joseph Finder, is the idea of privacy being a thing of the past. It gives the film a fresh feel as it rails against the death of privacy as well as individuality in a sense. Again, however, what keeps the movie from the being great is that it is unwilling to take that final leap and really tackle the issue by bringing warrant-less government spying into the mix. In fact, the only representation of the government existing in the film at all is in the form of a do no wrong cop played by Josh Holloway.
Again, I digress. Paranoia is worth a watch because it’s a mostly honest film about a lost generation fighting for their slice of the American dream. It’s a story about capitalism and individualism trumping the everyday norm of corporatism and law breaking.
Beyond ideology, the film works on many levels and fails on a few big ones. The cast is superb and make the film more than watchable. Hemsworth and Amber Heard (as the film’s love interest) bring charisma and energy to their roles, but the best scenes are between Ford and Oldman. Even if you hate the film, you have to agree that the powerful clashes between these two more than validate the movie’s existence.
Director Robert Luketic balances style and story well here and gives the film a sly touch that earns the proceedings some edge and relevancy. Where the film fails (besides in not going the extra mile with its ideology) is in the form of logic. There are some huge plot holes and idiotic turns here. One example is when Adam and his friend are discussing a super secret project worth possibly billions in a public bar. They are even using the television in the bar to broadcast their ideas. This is after we get big speeches about how absolutely anyone can be a spy and that we’re always being watched. That’s just one slip up that holds its place among a few other major ones.
Still, Paranoia is enjoyable and has the cinematic thrill and capabilities that one should expect from a good movie they can watch on a night in.
The Blu-ray combo pack includes the typical round of special features examining the cast and source material. The most interesting feature comes in the form of Privacy is Dead. The video is full of facts and talk about how there is no such thing as privacy anymore. It even highlights some of the NSA’s warrant-less spying.
If you’re looking for an easy to digest thriller with some surprisingly relevant and poignant themes then check out Paranoia. Even if you hate it, you get to watch Ford and Oldman chew scenery together as if they were Greek Gods fighting for their place on Mount Olympus.