The new suspense movie “Paranoia” has so much style that viewers may wonder why someone didn’t find it a decent title. Probably young Adam (Liam Hemsworth) has reason to feel as if he is being watched all the time. But he is not suffering delusions. He is being watched all the time.
Adam, the son of a retired security guard, has a job looking to promote the products of a cell phone making corporation run by Wyatt (Gary Oldman). Wyatt used to be a high-ranking employee of the Eikon cell phone making corporation, run by whispering Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). One day Wyatt fires Adam and his pals.
That night they go to a bar, paying their tab with what’s left of their corporate allowance, and Adam meets and beds a young woman, Emma (Amber Heard). She makes herself very unattractive the next morning by telling him he isn’t high enough class to be date material.
Then Wyatt sends his sharp-shooting henchman to get Adam. The boss demands that the lad take a weekend of training, at the hands of a company psychologist, and a make-over and that he then take a job with Eikon. Adam will be an industrial spy and will be well-compensated.
The second Eikon employee he meets though is, you guessed it, Emma. He finds her attractive, though movie-goers may well wonder why. Anyway, he gets the job and is given three days to find a use for a GPS. tracking feature. Helped by an old pal, he realizes it can be used by the armed services to cut down the number of friendly fire incidents. Goddard is pleased.
But Wyatt becomes more threatening, demanding that Adam steal the plans for Eikon’s new phone from Em’s computer. And about that time an FBI agent visits our hero and tells him both Goddard and Wyatt are being investigated for industrial espionage and associated human injury.
There you have all the elements for the rest of the story, except for Eikon’s glaringly unlikely vault room, that looks as if it came from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Adam has to find a way to keep Wyatt from attacking him while he keeps Goddard and Emma off-balance, and he has to worry about the FBI, too, if he doesn’t have to consult his conscience.
There is some action in the developments—a chase scene, a pedestrian hit-and-run, ticking clock business in Em’s bedroom as she showers and in that vault. And the film has a cold but consistent style for its music and look, with buildings, interiors, and clothes (ugh) that could represent any half-decade since about 1970-75.
Another of the film’s strengths is its cast, though I never did warm to Heard. The Aussie Hemsworth is very likeable. Ford gives another of his distinguished late-career featured turns and Oldman is Oldman. The supporters have also been well cast. Julian McMahon is right as the enforcer and Embeth Davidtz is even more perfect as the psychologist.
This is not to say that the film doesn’t have failings. It has no sense of humor. This is odd. The world the movie depicts is artificial, shallow, and ridiculous, and one wants to laugh aloud at how seriously these adults are taking cell phone features. But the movie isn’t ready to laugh along.
Then, too, because electronic gadgets aren’t particularly visual, the movie has to struggle to make the action seem important on the giant screen. This is why the vault of rows of identical safety deposit boxes is lit with black lights, I recon. Sure the picture is silly, but at least it is flashy.
Still, this is a film that was made consciously. The movie-makers are craftsmen. And director Robert Luketik, whose best movie to date is still “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!,” has enough sense to make the film’s characteristic style general and to keep the pace up.
Whatever you call it, “Paranoia” isn’t a bad little suspense flic. But is it paranoia if they’re really all out to get you?