Arts movie review

You know the plot; you’ve seen every twist before

Paranoia has no saving grace

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Harrison Ford and Liam Hemsworth in Paranoia.
Peter Lovino
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Amber Heard and Liam Hemsworth in Paranoia.
Peter Lovino



Directed by Robert Luketic

Starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard

Rated PG-13

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I have a feeling that Robert Luketic, the director of Paranoia, may be feeling a bit paranoid himself lately, after his movie was mauled mercilessly by the critics. You know you are not bound for the Oscars when your Rotten Tomatoes score is lower than that of The Adventures of Pluto Nash. I will grant Luketic this much: there is nothing grotesquely bad about Paranoia. Unfortunately, there is nothing good about it either. And this may be his sin: we were expecting something, a saving grace. When you have Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman in the cast, and build anticipation by — as I heard — multiple postponed release dates, great expectations are created.

The background story in Paranoia is the fight between two technology giants: Jock Goddard (played by Ford) and Nicholas Wyatt (played by Oldman). While Goddard is transparently based on Steve Jobs, Wyatt is more of a composite of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. One is the mentor of the other. Each is the king of his own tech emporium, and both have egos the size of cathedrals. Oh, and they are both competing to create the next big thing.

Caught in the middle of this clash of the titans are two young lovers, the fortune-hungry Adam Cassidy (played by Liam Hemsworth) and the even-hungrier Emma Jennings (played by Amber Heard). As pawns in a chess game, so the premise goes, they become part of the battle between the two kings, and end up being sacrificed in a gambit. Saying more about the plot would be a disservice to the reader, first because there is not much plot to share anything else will weaken the remaining story, and second because you already know the plot: you’ve seen every twist before, with other names and other faces, one commonplace theme after the other.

It seems to me that somebody wanted to make Hemsworth a movie star, and so decided to make him the lead actor in a movie with Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman playing second fiddle. But this task is too much for the young Hemsworth, who gives to his character in Paranoia the same depth he brought to his secondary role in The Hunger Games. He ends up coming across as a supporting actor where he was supposed to be the star, leaving a void that no other character fills. The stunningly beautiful Amber Heard fares a bit better, but is not able to salvage the sinking ship of Paranoia.

This movie is a collection of missed opportunities. With the NSA scandal raging, its underlying theme of “your cellphone is spying on you” could have hit a home run, had the writing been better. With Oldman and Ford in the cast, something better could have — nay, must have — been possible. But it takes both a good story and a good lead actor to make a good movie, and this movie has neither. What it has is a repetition of known themes, recycled twists and shallow performances that falls short of compensating the audience for the time it takes to watch the film.