By Will Ashton
Many people believe there are only so many stories that can be told. The number isn’t specific— some will save 7, others will say 5—but the general point remains: Hollywood pretty much tells the same stories over and over again.
Generally, though, people don’t seem mind this. For many, it’s because they like conformity, and the thought of change is often harsh and alienating to them. But, often, the real reason why this isn’t really a problem is because many filmmakers have the sense to change things up a bit. The changes don’t have to be drastic, but the delivery may be changed, or it could just be from the characters themselves, but, typically, we can get away with hearing the same stories over and over again because there’s something different that comes with each telling.
But, sometimes, that’s not the case.
Paranoia tells the story of Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), a young, hardworking low-level technology employee who loses his job due to his own prideful arrogance. After taking himself and his fellow former employees out for drinks under his company credit card, Adam finds himself working under a corporate espionage assignment or else he faces severe jail time.
His company head, Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), dresses him up well in order to find out trade secrets for his corporate rival Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). But when things don’t go quite as expected, Adam finds that he may be in deeper water than he initially anticipated.
The movie that I was reminded the most of when I was watching Paranoia was 21. Which, ultimately, makes sense, since Robert Luketic directed them both. Both films show promise in their early segments, as though they may go somewhere interesting, but, ultimately, both films settle on telling the same-old plot twists and routines that we have seen so many times before.
But where 21 at least had some visual flair, Paranoia feels rather flat. It seems like he and his DP David Tattersall just don’t really care. A majority of the time, it seems like the filmmakers, including screenwriters Jason Hall (Spread) and Barry L. Levy (Vantage Point), are more interested in finding ways to get Hemsworth out of his shirt than they do furthering the plot in interesting or unique ways.
It’s not so much that it’s poorly made, it just feels like they are going through the motions and they know it. They’re just waiting until they get their paycheck. And, if this is the case, why should we put in any effort on our end to know what happens? Well, I guess the answer comes from its cast.
This Hemsworth kid is growing on me. I think it started with the first Hunger Games movie, but he has shown to me that he can get through a movie and not be the worst thing about it. I’m not convinced yet that he can actually act, but I am convinced that he can be in a movie and not completely suck.
He’s got some charisma to him, much like his more talented brother Chris, and he does have some nice blue eyes. I guess that’s enough to warrant him a leading man. As the lead, he carries Paranoia fine enough at times, but, ultimately, his performance also seems to sum up the film itself: tolerable, but dull.
But Oldman, meanwhile, seems to be enjoying the juicy little role that he was given. And, in turn, it’s a good bit of fun to watch him play it. Oldman giving a good performance is not new, but I appreciate the fact that he still puts in some effort. And, in turn, he’s definitely the best thing about this movie.
Same could also pretty much be said about Ford and Richard Dreyfuss, who plays Adam’s ill dad in the movie. While they aren’t quite as good as Oldman, they both do justice to their filmographies by turning in some solid supporting performances. Dreyfuss could arguably be the heart of the movie, had he been in it more, while Ford is able to not ham it up like he did earlier this year in 42.
Side note: Where has Dreyfuss been? I think this if the first time I’ve seen him in anything since his cameo in Piranha 3D a couple years ago. Keep making movies, Dreyfuss.
Paranoia isn’t stupid as much as it isn’t as smart as it thinks it is. There are segments of dialogue that seem to suggest that the film may have a brain, but then it will dissolve into a plot twist that’s either entirely predictable or just silly. General audiences may not mind, but, after a while, it’s hard to get excited about a twist you have seen done 1233 times already.
I didn’t hate Paranoia. I didn’t love it either. In fact, I didn’t feel much of anything for Paranoia. It ultimately added up to a series of pictures and sounds that never angered, excited or engaged in on any real level. It just kinda happened, and, by the end, I didn’t really care. Much like this movie, I’m just starting to repeat myself.
Because I’ve seen this story, or at least this type of story, so many times now that if you’re not going to care enough to change things up a bit, then why should I care about your plot and your characters?