Making the Grades
If, like the guy beside me at the screening, you are tech savvy, the technology glitches in the script of Paranoia will likely drive you crazy. But even if it doesn’t bother you that the software tracking the whereabouts of a young executive appears as visuals rather than rows of scrolling code on the computer screen, this plot still has problems.
Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) is a 27-year-old cubicle worker at Wyatt Enterprises, one of the top tech companies in the world. When a pitch he has been planning fails to gain the attention of the company’s boss, he and four of his friends (Lucas Till, Angela Sarafyan, William Peltz, Haley Finnegan) are fired. After a night of clubbing and drinks on the company’s credit card account, Adam is summoned to the president’s office—but not for the reason he believes.
Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) has one thing on his mind: the destruction of his rival Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford). Once partners, the two men split ways and have since been determined to take the other one down. Adam is given the option of serving prison time or becoming part of Nick’s plot.
Prepped and preened for a position at Jock’s company Eikon, Adam is promised substantial financial remuneration if he steals company secrets and returns them to Nick. It is an offer Adam can hardly refuse, especially because he is responsible for his father’s medical bills. To pull off the infiltration, the young man is pulled out of his row house on the wrong side of town and set up in an expensive New York apartment with a high-end car. As part of a demographic that feels ripped off by the fraudulent financial antics of their parents’ generation, Adam has no reserves about repeating the same deceitful practices if it nets him a hefty income.
The problem with his attitude is it’s hard to distinguish who’s good and who’s bad in the screenplay. Without a recognizable antagonist, everyone soon becomes suspects in this cat and mouse game. And audiences are left with no clear character to root for. Meanwhile Adam takes advantage of his new lifestyle to attract the attention of Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), a co-worker in charge of rolling out one of Jock’s latest inventions. Only too late does Adam realize he is merely a disposable pawn in the rivals’ high stakes game of corporate espionage.
While the script contains a strong sexual expletive and infrequent profanities, corporate crime leads to some bloody murders used to silence informers. As well, Adam may jokingly talk about sleeping his way up the corporate ladder but in reality he appears to be doing just that. A sensual scene of kissing and undressing leads to a morning after in bed together. However this repeated consensual act also serves a purpose when Adam uses it to gain valuable insider information.
Greed, entitlement and revenge are at the heart of Paranoia. Yet the blind ambition that drives these desires still pays off for many of the characters by the end of the film. Unfortunately, that positive reinforcement may set up a whole new generation to buy into the same avarices that fueled the felonies committed by their predecessors.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Paranoia.
In our society of social networks, is privacy a myth? How do surveillance cameras and other security devices track individuals? Should people be concerned about how much information is available?
What does Nick’s assistant Judith (Embeth Davidtz) encourage Adam to do in order to connect with Jock? What role does trust (or in this case faked trust) play in building a relationship? How does Adam’s deceit jeopardize his romantic relationship?
How do the criminals in the movie justify their behaviors? How does Adam defend his decision to become involved with these men and their plot?
How does this movie pit generations against one another?