Don't let the abysmal opening weekend numbers fool you: director Robert Luketic's corporate espionage thriller, Paranoia, is a fast-paced and intelligent film with a hip script and a great cast. In the always-advancing world of corporate America (not to mention the ever-changing realm of technology), the audience is thrown immediately into the point-of-view of a young, albeit somewhat entitled, entrepreneur on the verge of making it big... Until he blows his big presentation and costs himself (and his colleagues) the job that helps support not only him, but his ailing yet noble father on the tough streets of New York City. But the story immediately takes a left turn and continues its whirlwind of lies and deception all the way to its shocking conclusion.
As the tagline on the movie poster suggests, "In a war between kings, even a pawn can change the game." Never before has a tagline so adequately and appropriately summed up an entire film. Liam (The Hunger Games, The Last Song) Hemsworth and Amber (Hidden Palms, Zombieland) Heard believably portray the star-crossed lovers on opposite sides of the game (not to mention the law), but the true scene-stealing performances come from the rival multi-billionaire businessmen, expertly played by Gary (The Dark Knight Trilogy, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) Oldman and Harrison (The Fugitive, What Lies Beneath)Ford, their first on-stage pairing together since the seminal action thriller, Air Force One. Added star power comes in the form of Embeth (Matilda, 13 Ghosts) Davidtz, Julian (Nip/Tuck, Faces in the Crowd) McMahon, Josh (Lost, Mission: Impossible 3) Holloway, Lucas (X-Men: First Class, Stoker) Till, and a surprisingly heartfelt performance from Richard (Mr. Holland's Opus, Jaws) Dreyfuss as Hemsworth's father.
The biggest strength of the movie is perhaps what led to its current status as a widely-regarded box office flop: It is realistic. Perhaps too realistic for some, but never boring. Yes, there is a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse throughout, and yes, there is a real sense of danger for the protagonist and his friends and loved ones, but it is so well-paced and rooted in realism that the average moviegoer could possibly become bored or get lost along the way. There are no cliffhangers and viewers won't leave with a sense of wanting per se, but there is a sense of mystery at the end of the film. When the credits roll, most people will be turning to their fellow audience members asking a series of rational questions, ranging from certain characters' whereabouts after the finale to various motivations that, in the end, would have only detracted from the mystery of the whole thing. Sometimes there are things in life that we don't get answered, and these things, much like the film's title and its characters, can lead to a great sense of suspicion and, of course, paranoia.