Paranoia *1/2 (out of five)
Excruciating dialogue is only the tip of the iceberg of this film’s dunderheadedness, but it’s the sin that keeps on giving throughout the way too many 108 painful minutes it takes to get through it. When the words aren’t just corny, clichéd and labored, they’re so ludicrously expositional it’s embarrassing. Essentially a film about a cell phone, director Robert Luketic tries to hide the incredibly low stakes by using the corniest of all cinematic tricks, and literally awful music, relentlessly, to negative effect. Helicopter shots of the Manhattan skyline have rarely been so banal.
Adam (Liam Hemsworth) is an ambitious tech kid who gets trained in the art of corporate espionage by tech titan Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman) to go steal the secrets of a phone from rival Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford, slumming for cash and a light shooting schedule). A lot of gleaming surfaces, expensive suits and bad guys in black leather jackets ensue.
For a movie that shows an Apple product about every ten minutes, the film’s setting of the two most powerful cell phone companies in Manhattan rather than Silicone Valley (or at least San Francisco) is bizarre – and not in a good way, but a dumb way – but there are worse technical issues. For a film that revels in the phraseology of technology, it’s already relentlessly dated, or simply ignorant beyond belief. When Adam tries to show Emma Jennings (the truly beautiful but truly awful Amber Heard) that he’s smarter than she thinks by correcting Goddard that she went to Yale rather than Princeton, Emma, supposedly a genius corporate prodigy of the tech sector, says, “How’d you know I went to Yale?” Adam replies, “Ur… Facebook, I guess,” while Goddard, supposedly a Steve Jobs type, stands around like a goofy idiot. Later Emma wonders, to Adam, why “You know everything about me but I know nothing about you?” She went to Yale, and works on the top floor of one of the biggest tech firms in the world, but hasn’t heard of Google. Yeah, it’s that bad.
Indeed, if you have ever used a computer for anything more than word processing and email you’ll find the tech talk laughable. This is a film that considers showing a file being copied, or a close up of a phone with the words “Incoming Call”, the very height of suspense. It treats its audience with disdain, like idiot children. When it tries to up the ante with more serious shenanigans than simply corporate espionage – when people start getting hurt or killed – it only gets more stupid.
Gary Oldman phones in a dreadful imitation of an actual Gary Oldman performance, but even worse is Richard Dreyfuss as Adam’s (unintentional) parody of a working class Dad, sputtering, trying on different “New Yawk” accents from scene to scene, scoping out his visiting nurse’s ass (even though she comes weekly) and, at one point, dressing as Quint from Jaws, as though he’s finally getting to play the cooler role in Jaws thirty-five years after Robert Shaw’s death. If this is the kind of dreck these aging titans must take, perhaps they should retire with dignity. I can’t imagine they watched this obvious, simplistic, completely suspense-less “thriller” with anything less than embarrassment. It’s terrible.