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Paranoia (2013)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/19/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/19/2013

Have you ever asked yourself why James Bond movies are so cool? The answer should be obvious, as Bond gets to travel the globe, use cool gadgets, fight with a lot of interesting weapons, and...um...meet a plethora of friendly ladies. But, the real answer as to why Bond is popular is that he's a spy. The thrill of infiltrating an enemies compound and retrieving secrets is a thrilling one and something which has kept the franchise going. (Just look at how many video games now use this kind of concept.) However, the Bond brand of spying is a decidedly Cold War model. Today, corporate espionage is much more intriguing, as we can't help but wonder how many companies are trying to steal their competitors secrets. This is exactly what we get with Paranoia.

Liam Hemsworth (the one who isn't Thor) stars in Paranoia as Adam Cassidy, a technology worker who is an employee of a company owned by Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). When Adam's latest idea is shot down by Wyatt, he decides to spend the remaining R&D fund -- $16,000 -- on a night on the town with the rest of his team. The next morning, Adam is called into meet with Wyatt and given a choice. As Wyatt is aware of the huge bar tab, he will charge Adam with credit card fraud, or Adam can become a corporate spy. As Adam cares for his invalid father (Richard Dreyfuss), he has no choice. He soon finds himself whisked away to a remote estate where Dr. Judith Bolton (Embeth Davidtz) begins to train Adam on how he will get hired by the rival firm ran by Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford) and how we will succeed there. Adam's knowledge and Bolton's grooming work, as Adam is quickly hired by the firm and begins to dazzle Goddard. But, now that Adam is in the hen house, can he go through with the job.

Paranoia, which is based on a novel by Joseph Finder, presents with a conundrum. It has all of the earmarks of a very standard thriller, but it also boasts an impressive cast and offers some interesting ideas. Paranoia obviously isn't the first film to dabble in corporate spying, but the subject matter here is cell phone technology. This instantly hooks the viewer, as it's relatable and we easily imagine real-life companies racing to get the latest idea to market. The story also makes the smart move of having Adam be a worker drone who could easily blend in, and not some hotshot who we're supposed to believe could easily infiltrate the enemy.

Also, as noted above, the movie brings us a dynamite cast. In the forefront, we have the younger Hemsworth, who made a splash in The Hunger Games, as well as Amber Heard, who is seemingly in every movie. For older audiences, the draw here will be Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, both of whom seem perfectly suited to play titans of industry. Unfortunately, they only have two scenes together, and neither is as powerful as we would like. Julian McMahon and Lost's Josh Holloway have supporting roles.

The place where Paranoia really stumbles is in the story. Check that -- the last third of the story. Again, the basic premise draws us in and for the first two acts, things move fairly smoothly. Adam is blackmailed by Wyatt and makes his way into Goddard's company. Once there, he finds that he actually likes Goddard and begins to question his choices. However, things really fall apart in the final act when the story tries to get crafty. We get one double-cross after another and nothing gels at all. This is one of those films which appears to be doing something clever, but it almost has a shell-game effect, where the story throws a bunch of things at us at once to hide the fact that it's got nothing. The finale borders on baffling and instead of being suspenseful, it's simply dull. Director Robert Luketic -- Legally Blonde, 21 -- has made much better movies, but everything collapses in the end here. The film even fails at living up to its title, as it wants to be a film which makes us wary of technology, but it only makes us wonder why no one did a better job of editing this script. I recommend the similar, but little-seen, Anti-Trust instead.

Paranoia does present the idea of a pretty cool all-in-one personal device (is anyone really making this?) on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is notably good, especially in close-ups, where we can see every line on the actor's faces. The depth is good as well, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences provide good surround sound effects, some of which are nicely detailed. The street and nightclub scenes also deliver nice rear speaker action, as well as stereo effects which show good separation.

The Paranoia Blu-ray Disc offers a handful of extra features. The Disc contains four DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. These are all pretty brief and don't introduce any new characters or ideas. "Privacy is Dead" (6 minutes) ties the idea of a rise in real-life surveillance to the themes in the film. "The Paranoia Begins" (6 minutes) contains comments from author Joseph Finder and examines the story and the making of the film, most notably the script. "The Players" (5 minutes) pays close attention to the characters, and the cast comments on their approach to the film. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long