Paranoia has second-hand storyline that’s going to leave it struggling with the critics. However it may still do well at the box office because the ending is one audiences desperately want to see.
Liam Hemsworth, one of the heart-throbs of Hunger Games fame, stars as a young computer programmer named Adam Cassidy. He’s desperate to get ahead in an industry that seems to be dominated by older, less imaginative people. As the representative Gen Y hero, he holds down an entry-level position at one of the world’s most powerful tech companies. However, Adam finds his best ideas binned by his bitter Gen X boss, Nicolas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). But instead, his boss offers him a risky opportunity to rise to the top of the food chain in one jump. If Cassidy will carry out some industrial espionage at a rival company, then Wyatt will pay him handsomely and overlook some indiscretions with the company credit card. Standing in Adam’s way, though, is Jock Goddard, another tech godfather played by Harrison Ford. Can Cassidy lift the golden piece of tech at the heart of Goddard’s empire without being caught? And even if he succeeds, will his conscience get away scot-free?
Paranoia vs. Wall Street
Everything about this heist film sounds familiar, which is not surprising considering most of the script seems to have been lifted from 1987’s Wall Street. Let me tender the evidence:
- Adam, a young professional from the wrong side of the tracks – Bud Fox, anyone?
- Desperate to get the attention of billionaire businessman – elsewhere he’d go by the name of Gordon Gecko
- But Adam’s best ideas don’t impress, so he’s given an illegal chance to get ahead - Blue Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel!
- Along the way Adam falls in love and fails to tell the truth – in 1987 the heartthrob was Daryl Hannah.
- Of course Adam’s salt-of-the-earth father warns him to be careful – that was Martin Sheen’s role.
- That’s because the Harrison Ford character is much better informed than people think – just like Sir Larry Wildman was when Bud came calling.
- Is it any surprise that both heroes get in too deep and opt to cut a deal with the Feds?
About the only truly original contribution Paranoia makes is a perverse Gen Y twist that suggests the smartest bosses would do well to let these youngsters take the lead – oh, and of course, its intensely irritating ending.
Getting it all
If you’re really determined to watch this film then beware, there’s a major spoiler ahead…
Just like his cinematic doppelganger Bud Fox, Adam comes to the conclusion that he’s not only betrayed his friends and family, he’s betrayed himself. He co-operates with the FBI in a sting that lands both the bad-guy billionaires in prison. It’s a highly improbable plan given these guys are supposed to be tech geniuses, but that’s not what annoys me. The beauty of the Wall Street ending is that Fox still has to pay for his crimes, and goes to prison a wiser man. Cassidy gets the baddies, gets a new business, gets the girl … gets away with it. He admits his guilt, but his scriptwriters won’t admit his actions deserved any penalty.
As a scriptwriter, I’m under no illusions that Paranoia was written this way because its producers’ greatest fear was their audience wouldn’t like to see their hero being behind bars. He’s their on-screen representative and this is how most of the world would like its sins to be judged. I don’t think the average person would have any problem admitting they do bad things, but they’d like to point out there are people far worthier of punishment. Surely admitting you’ve been wrong is sufficient? Sadly, not.
The Bible teaches that real justice requires restitution. We can’t just ‘wink’ at sin; Proverbs 10:10 says it only causes more trouble. God is in the position to offer mercy but even He can only do so because He has offered restitution first. That’s why Jesus had to die, because even if Cassidy manages to avoid the FBI there’s still a cosmic reckoning awaiting. Admission of guilt isn’t enough, especially if it’s accompanied by self-justification. Repentance is what Adam, and every son of Adam will have to provide, if we’re going to benefit from the grace Jesus offers.
Watching Paranoia with your kids
Paranoia has M rated content but it’s still likely to attract the attention of twenty-somethings because of the cast involved and the Gen-Y focus. A wise parent might begin by striking up one of the following conversations:
- What would have been a better way for Adam to handle his setback at work – instead of taking the company credit to a local club?
- Would it have been unfair if Adam had ended up in prison?
- Would it have been unfair if God had punished us for our sins?