Let's start out by saying that I have been hyped to see Paranoia for a good long while. Why? Because I loved the book from which it is based. Yes, I'm one of the few people on this planet who actually read the 2004 novel by Joseph Finder, and it was very good. What with the extremely negative reviews and box office failure, I did not expect the film adaptation to be very good, but I was nonetheless highly interested in seeing it. I finally rented it a mere three days after its DVD release. And, I must say, it was an extremely pleasant surprise.
Paranoia follows a young man named Adam Cassidy, who makes a financial fraud at his business, Wyatt Telecommunications, to throw a big party. When he is caught by the company's ruthless and extremely British CEO Nicolas Wyatt, he gives him two choices: face up to twenty years in prison, or work as a double-agent for his competitor, Jock Goddard. Adam accepts, and at first he is living the good life, but later begins to question who he should trust and who his allies are, and bad stuff starts happening really fast.
This basic plot setup is the only thing that is virtually exactly as it was in the book. Aside from that, the film strays A LOT from its source material, both for better and for worse. There are a lot of odd minor changes that are made; for example, in the book the love interest is named Alana Jennings, in the movie she is Emma Jennings. In the book, Nick Wyatt's hitman is named Arnold Meachum, in the movie he is Miles Meachum. In the book, Jock Goddard's dead son is named Elijah, in the movie he is Dylan. In the book, Jock Goddard's company is called Trion, in the movie it is Eikon. These small changes didn't really bug me or anything, but they just seemed kind of out of place. But I've gone on long enough about the plot.
One thing I can say for sure is that I think a SIGNIFICANT factor in my liking for this movie is the fact that I read the book. There are several scenes in the movie that involve certain techno-talks and espionage elements that are rather unexplained, and are best understood if you read the book. If I hadn't read the book, this probably would have been a 7/10, or something along those lines. It's lucky that I read the book, because now I can safely say that this is a very serviceable adaptation.
The movie is directed by Robert Luketic, the director of Legally Blonde and Monster-in-Law. When I saw that he was directing the adaptation, I was completely baffled, because even though he made a somewhat successful thriller (21) he just didn't seem cut out to direct a film like this. But, to say the least, I was just being paranoid (ha ha), because Luketic actually proves to be a very slick director here. The film has gorgeous cinematography that really provides candy for the eyes, and there are some very tense and well-paced thrills. The film also has an excellent techno-musical score that blends well with the film's pace. The editing is brisk and clean-cut, and the production values are nice to look at as well.
The casting for this movie is absolutely spot-on. Maybe this is just because I knew the cast before I read the book, but they came out on screen almost exactly as I saw them in the book. Liam Hemsworth (who gives a pitch-perfect American accent) is likeable and relatable as the everyday person, and even though he is king of arrogant and full of himself at times, you really identify with him and understand the situation he's in. Amber Heard is also very likeable as the love interest, even if her character setup is rather generic. And Richard Dreyfuss is funny and entertaining as Adam's father. But, of course, the real show-stealers here are Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford. They freaking SELL their roles as the ruthless and cold-hearted businessmen, and as an Air Force One fanboy, I got such a rush of excitement seeing them tear into each other like wild animals. And while we've all seen Oldman play villains in the past, this is the first time I've ever seen Ford play such a cold-hearted guy. His characters are always menacing, yes, but they are always heroes. Here, he completely breaks character and gives us one hell of a jerk. And you never truly know who the greater villain is, Oldman or Ford, and the movie keeps pushing the twists with these characters. In fact, there are a LOT of character twists. As a matter of fact, there were even more in the book, to the point of absurdity, but the movie narrows it down to just the right level, and it's very satisfying.
One thing that I really didn't like about the book was the ending. It was unexplained, extremely abrupt, and very bland. Plus, it was just a bit too open-ended. The movie, however, fixes it up SUPERBLY. In fact, the movie ended just about EXACTLY the way I wanted the book to end. It was much more gratifying, better explained, and not at all open-ended. This is such a great praise to offer, and it left me with a smile on my face.
I certainly have problems with the movie (such as unexplained pot devices, a few bits of clichéd dialogue, and general unoriginality to the premise), but it was a very entertaining and thrilling movie to watch, and a very good adaptation that may equal the book in quality, if not exceed it. It's well acted, wonderfully shot, very thrilling, at times quite intriguing, and full of twists and turns. It's one of the most underrated films of the year, and it most definitely lives up to its title.