“There’s Nothing Original These Days."

(USA/France, 106 min.)
Dir. Robert Luketic, Writ. Jason Hall, Barry L. Levy
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Lucas Till, Embeth Davidtz, and Richard Dreyfuss.
Gary Oldman, Chris Hemsworth, and Harrison Ford star in Paranoia.
Photo by Peter Iovino, courtesy of eOne Films
“There’s nothing original these days,” says Wyatt (Gary Oldman) to his young protégé Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) in the slick flick Paranoia. As Adam gives a career-driven yessir nod to his boss, Wyatt goes on how the only thing to do in the age of unoriginality is to steal ideas from the competition or to make a better copy. Paranoia, an utterly derivative techno-thriller, doesn’t really do either of Wyatt’s advised tactics, but it reveals a dearth of originality.

Caught in a John Grisham-y bind between two egomaniac smartphone rivals, Adam follows a familiar story as he uses his dashing good looks and tech-savvy skills to play for Wyatt and spy on the competition. Wyatt’s enemy is Jock (I thought they were just mispronouncing Jacques, but that’s his actual name), played by a gruff Harrison Ford. Paranoia is definitely a product of a generation reared on automatic updates, for Adam’s dirty double-crossing leads him down paths both predictably formulaic and embarrassingly clichéd. There’s even a love interest played by Amber Heard (beautiful but bland) who gets caught in the middle of Adam’s deception and, sigh, betrayed.

The weirdest character of all might be Wyatt’s goon and Adam’s spy trainer, Judith, played with icy resolve by Embeth Davidtz (one of several Mad Men regulars to appear in the film). Judith has an odd way of enjoying random cutaways that allow Davidtz to squint her eyes as the character sizes up her colleagues. Judith makes a swanky living by reading people and predicting their behaviour for Mr. Wyatt. Corporate backstabbing probably wasn’t the life Judith expected after gaining a Ph.D. in behavioural psychology, but at least she’s not a barista.

The random ensemble doesn’t do much to make the dull by-the-numbers script of Paranoia come to life. Hemsworth, while serviceable enough, doesn’t offer much as a memorable lead. Oldman and Ford, on the other hand, have a lot of fun chewing the scenery, although they give Paranoia the misfortune of having two villains that are significantly more interesting and engaging than the protagonist. Adding to the unevenness of the film are Adam’s comic-relief friends, played by Lucas Till and Angela Sarafyan, who seem to be extras from The Big Bang Theory. Richard Dreyfuss, finally, has a lot of fun playing the dirty old man Adam calls his father, but the material seems like little more than a paycheck for him.

Paranoia isn’t helped much, either, by its meandering pacing and its silly superficiality. Sleek with lens flare and filled with plenty of fancy gadgets, Paranoia is all style and little substance. To be fair, Adam’s attractively dressed apartment is easily the best thing about the film—well done, art directors! There’s also an odd electronic score that seems more suitable as the soundtrack for a douchey pre-drink than for a smart thriller. At least the beats keep one from falling asleep.

Paranoia is probably a great film to watch from the corner of the eye whilst perusing the Twitter feed on one's smartphone, but it’s is hardly worth the money—or the bandwidth—required to screen it. Paranoia simply tries too hard to be a relevant contemporary thriller, but the seams show at every turn. It never really thrills, and the morale of corporate greed in the age of technological disaffection is very heavy-handed. The film also has a negligible air of paranoia, which makes its title wildly misleading. Will someone please send the director of Legally Blonde a copy of The Conspiracy?

Rating: ★★ (out of ★★★★★)

Paranoia opens in wide release August 15th.