Paranoia Is a Groan-Inducing Business Drama at Odds With Itself


From its opening lines of voiceover narration, Paranoia makes you groan. “We belong to a generation that watched our dream get stolen from under us. Used to be that if you got good grades, you got a good job. . .” It’s a pat bit of righteous indignation—part Fight Club, part a million other pseudo-rebellious big-budget Hollywood films whose insights and social commentary are easily dismantled. (Exactly who was once “guaranteed” a good job as a reward for scholastic achievement?) Director Robert Luketic, working from a screenplay by Barry L. Levy and Jason Dean Hall (adapted from Joseph Finder’s novel), rallies hard to get audiences to identify with Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth), an entitled, unlikable peon at a high-tech company. Adam longs for money and power to escape his wrong-side-of-the-tracks origins. After he blows a pitch meeting before Nicolas Wyatt, his company’s powerful CEO (Gary Oldman, in extra-crispy villain mode), Adam is fired, and retaliates by running up his company credit card before it’s cut off. Wyatt forces him to work off his debt by infiltrating the powerful tech firm of Wyatt’s archenemy to steal plans for a game-changing new phone. Adam secures his new job with laughably unlikely ease, and then unwittingly plays his role as dupe for two powerful men. We’re supposed to cheer as he swims with sharks, but this is a film at odds with itself, wanting to be a 99 percenter rallying cry but wallowing in and fetishizing 1 percenter accoutrement at every turn. And though we are living in a fear of a National Security Agency planet, the film squanders the opportunity to say anything about navigating a hyper-surveilled life that James Bond (or Jason Bourne) films haven’t already said much better.