Paranoia – film review

"Paranoia" 2013 poster.
“Paranoia” 2013 poster.
Paranoia is a slightly-around-the-corner scifi thriller where competing telecoms vie for control over the market and over the lives of their customers. Starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, and Harrison Ford, the movie turns a dark mirror towards our own current world where two telecom giants fight for consumer dollars, and accuse each other of intellectual theft. Toss in the NSA and Paranoia doesn’t seem far-fetched at all.

The story begins with Adam Cassidy (Hemsworth) preparing for a big product meeting with Nicolas Wyatt (Oldman). Adam’s team has been working on a social network that utilizes location awareness to let close friends know where each other are in a creepy 3D sort of way that pegs exact location. Wyatt hates it and fires the team, so Adam decides to use their expense account at a posh nightclub. They party hard. They wrack up a bill. Adam meets a hottie and they spend the night. Then Wyatt’s goons come a’calling.

Now that Adam is up to his eyebrows in debt to his former company, Wyatt has a deal for him. No prosecution and he won’t ruin Adams’ friends lives in exchange for a service. All Adam has to do is go undercover as an employee for their competition. Jock Goddard (Ford) built an empire on Wyatt’s inventions, Wyatt wants his blood, and Adam is going to tap a vein and deliver it. Too bad the hottie from the nightclub works there, too. Can he betray her to protect his friends and family? Goddard seems like such a nice guy, too. Then the FBI lets Adam know that Wyatt’s undercover stooges end up in deadly accidents. Can Adam get out before Wyatt has him killed?

There is a plot hole at the end that involves a major lapse in surveillance, but aside from that the way these two competing tech giants ignore privacy laws to get what they want is chilling. How do you escape from an enemy who is tracking your movements on and off line? The scene where Adam rips apart his home in an effort to destroy every camera and microphone is all the more disheartening when he returns to his apartment the next day and everything is restored like new.

What makes this story even more chilling is how close to our lives the events of the movie are. Our phone conversations are recorded, our license plates are scanned, our movements are watched, and our bank transactions are monitored. Big Business makes an easy Hollywood patsy for the ills of the world, when in reality government is usually blundering about in our lives. Paranoia follows the “blame Big Business” school of thought unlike movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but it’s predictions of future tech and privacy issues are still prescient.

The movie is very suspenseful in how it depicts corporate espionage. You never quite believe that Adam will die, but you aren’t so certain about his friends and family. The technology is just close enough to today to be quite believable, and the performances by Oldman and Ford as competing ex-partners willing to kill and destroy in order to one-up each other is good theater.

Hemsworth also manages to be more than just eye candy by delivering a performance that makes the movie’s events believable. The hottie with a brain who he has fallen in love with (played by Amber Heard) is a very sympathetic character (though often no more than eye candy, unfortunately) and I felt Hemsworth made his character feel conflicted. Except for the convenient plot hole, I had no major complaints about Paranoia. Grab some popcorn and enjoy yourself.

Release Date: August 16, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

MySF Rating: Three point five stars
Family Friendliness: 40%


Alcohol/Drugs: 3 (scenes of social drinking, binge drinking, partying)
Language: 3 (some strong language)
Nudity: 0 (shirtless Liam, oh those abs!)
Sexuality: 3 (one night stand, bed scenes)
Violence: 3 (violence, death, gunplay, car violence)

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