If you were expecting the Robert Luketic-directed film Paranoia to be anything like Joseph Finder’s best-selling novel, you will be disappointed. If you expect to watch a “maddening race against time” in an “electrifying film,” you might be quite out of luck there too.
Overall, there hasn’t been a great history of film adaptations. For every Shawshank Redemption and Lord of the Rings, there have been too many like The Scarlet Letter and I am Legend. In these cases “adaptation” should be swapped out for something like “was supposed to be inspired by” or “possibly has a minor resemblance to.” The same applies to Paranoia.
Written by Barry Levy and Jason Dean Hall, the screenplay has very little in common with the novel with the exception of the names of the three main characters and the overall story of corporate espionage and exploitation. There are many crucial differences, but I don’t want to risk spoilers, and therefore will refrain from listing the discrepancies. But putting aside the comparisons to the book - how is the movie?
It’s clearly a talented cast. Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Richard Dreyfus, Julian McMahon, and Embeth Davidtz all have acting chops. But something goes awry. Oldman’s Nicolas Wyatt comes off more shrill than anything else. Ford, as Wyatt’s nemesis Jock Goddard, is a waste of talent, as is Dreyfus as Adam Cassidy’s father. McMahon, who plays Wyatt’s security goon, Meachum, is a caricature. The only one who really seems fit for her role is Embeth Davidtz as Judith, a groomer of spies and supplier of intel.
The plot is interesting enough, but it lacks the tension that the title suggests. For a film based on a thriller, there are not enough gripping moments, except for some scenes in the last quarter of the movie. A project like Enemy of the State captures more of the urgency and paranoia of high-tech surveillance than this movie. It doesn’t help that the romance between the two attractive young leads played by Liam Hemsworth and Amber Heard is not engaging or believable enough to make us care.
Blu-ray Extras: "Deleted Scenes" - nothing to see here. "The Players" - not a bad bit, this segment is mostly the cast and director giving each other kudos. "Paranoia Begins" - this feature is almost indistinguishable from "The Players;" it just includes the author Joseph Finder, plus the screenwriters, discussing the inception of the project. "Privacy is Dead" - this is the scariest part of all. Along with the cast and crew supplying some of their personal views on privacy, there are some chilling factoids about how many cameras are placed in major cities, (Chicago, 10,000, London, a whopping 500,000), or how many cellphone subscribers are on the planet. Six billion.
Paranoia is pretty to look at. Along with Hemsworth’s abs and Heard’s dimples, the cinematography of David Tattersall and the excellent Blu ray definition make a good-looking package. Too bad there’s not much inside.