I’m not sure the title “Paranoia” is quite right for this new movie based on Joseph Finder’s novel published in 2004. But since it is the title of the novel too, well, who am I to argue?
This is the story of a team of young, innovative high-tech employees of the Wyatt Corp. who have been tasked with impressing the company — but especially the company’s founder, Nicholas Wyatt — with a new product idea. Leading the gaggle of techies is Adam Cassidy, played by Liam Hemsworth. Suffice it to say that the presentation does not go well and the entire team exits the building unemployed.
But Wyatt sees potential in Adam as a spy in a high-stakes game of industrial espionage with his former mentor, Jock Goddard, played by Harrison Ford. Not above using blackmail, involving an indiscretion with a company credit card and threats aimed at Adam’s former team members, Wyatt recruits Adam and sets the stage for him to be imbedded in Goddard’s company.
Now, the plot really thickens.
It seems a beautiful young woman Adam met at a club, Emma, played by Amber Heard, is in charge of marketing the new innovation that our spy is supposed to “acquire.” As this relationship grows, Wyatt and his henchmen, who are monitoring every move, sense that their guy is conflicted and could be compromised. So they turn up the heat, even threatening Adam’s invalid dad, played by Richard Dreyfus. Now things really start to get nasty.
The big question is, who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? And, as the pressure mounts, will Adam ever be able to extract himself from the tightening web of intrigue?
Hemsworth and Heard deliver sympathetic characters laced with real chemistry. It’s interesting to see the evolution of an actor like Ford, who years ago would have starred in the role of Adam but now, seamlessly and delightfully, slips into an older, even deeper character like Goddard. (Several months ago he perfectly depicted Branch Rickey in the film “42.”) Gary Oldman, as Wyatt, seems to have that same gift. Without these two veteran talents, “Paranoia” would not have been anywhere near as good.
There are some real disconnects in this film, including Dreyfus, who literally and figuratively sleeps through much of his time on screen. Plus, Wyatt’s lead henchman is so stereotypical, it’s almost laughable.
But still, the film is entertaining and does keep you riveted. Three stars for Paranoia.