Director: Robert Luketic
Writers: Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy
Cast: Embeth Davidtz, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Liam Hemsworth, Charlie Hofheimer, Josh Holloway, Kevin Kilner, Christine Marzano, Julian McMahon, Gary Oldman, William Peltz, Angela Sarafyan, and Lucas Till
In describing Paranoia, I suppose I could deprecate its uninspired plot about a struggling software engineer coerced into industrial espionage, or I could bemoan the fact that its impressive cast is wasted in a sea of predictable twists and whatever the opposite of economy of language is. I could also nitpick its outlandish vision of cyber security, its laughable understanding of corporate hierarchy, or the questionable relevance of its title. Instead, I’d like to focus on the film’s overall contribution to society. Please find below five reasons why I believe director Robert Luketic hates humanity.
One: Paranoia deplores poor people. At least that’s what the seemingly endless opening voiceover would have us believe as Adam (Liam Hemsworth) tries to get into clubs he can’t afford when he ought to pay his dad’s medical bills. The bad guy, Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), even points out his warped priorities as if to set up a redemptive arc, but the film ends with our hero ignoring his debt once again in favour of renting a Fisker Karma for the weekend. You see, whereas sports cars denote a desire for extravagant wealth, his old man, Frank (Richard Dreyfuss), belongs through and through to the working class, making his life expendable.
Two: Paranoia deplores wealthy people. Nicolas blackmails Adam into spying on his main competitor, Jacques Goddard (Harrison Ford), who’s developing a secret project that could put Wyatt Tech out of business. That these corporate moguls keep coming up with revolutionary smartphone technology should lend weight to Ayn Rand’s Objectivist theory, but Luketic makes it clear we should despise the two rambling egotists. In fact, not a single rich person shows sign of human decency, least of all Emma (Amber heard), who sleeps with our hero and then berates him for being beneath her station. “You took me out for chilli fries,” she reproaches, “and I gave you the time of your life: yours, not mine.” What kind of monster says stuff like that?
Three: Paranoia deplores people who accept steady employment. Concluding that teaming up with our villains can only lead to ruin and that taking a normal nine-to-five job amounts to doing their bidding, Adam decides to launch his own software company. Luketic presents this turn of events as the movie’s big lesson, forgetting that such start-ups require wealthy investors, people exactly like Wyatt and Goddard. More to the point, wouldn’t success in this endeavour lead to our hero turning into an industrial bigwig himself? Is that really so much better than becoming an honest worker like Frank or, come to think of it, over eighty percent of the audience?
Four: Paranoia deplores foreigners. You see, Adam does have one moral advantage over our villains: he was born in the USA. In contrast, Nicolas and his assistant Judith (Embeth Davidtz) both speak with a British accent, indicating that they were raised abroad and therefore don’t have the same capacity for human compassion. Granted, Harrison Ford’s character sounds American and proves just as much of a scumbag, but that’s why screenwriters Jason Hall and Barry L. Levy had to give him a French name like “Jacques Goddard”. On a related note, the film takes place in the same version of New York as Friends and Sex and the City, you know, the one without blacks or Asians.
Five: Paranoia deplores women. I mentioned earlier how Adam’s love interest makes for a despicable human being, yet the movie still uses her as a moral compass of sort: “I fell for you because you weren’t like the others!” This, of course, makes no sense, but it doesn’t matter to Luketic because he doesn’t see Emma as a person so much as a pretty receptacle in which our hero can plant his penis as reward for a job well done. If she doesn’t like it, no worries: as Frank explains, “She’ll come around. You know how long I had to ask for your mother to go out with me?” After all, yes means no, so, after abusing a woman’s trust and destroying everything for which she’s ever worked, you should always keep harassing her until she drops her pretenses of personal ambition.
Like Elysium (2013), Paranoia makes for a disastrous social allegory, but, whereas Neill Blomkamp’s argument at least stems from a place of compassion, this one mostly seems to reflect the director’s ego: Luketic makes good money, so he looks down on those who don’t; Luketic doesn’t break bread with the one percent, so he showers us with “eat the rich” platitudes; Luketic has kept away from nine-to-five jobs, so he deems it the only virtuous career move; Luketic doesn’t belong to a minority group, so he blames all of America’s problems on foreigners; Luketic isn’t a woman, so he treats them like objects. I’m being harsh, I know. Still, you’ll excuse me for not celebrating a movie that essentially wipes its ass on the audience.