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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Paranoia

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Liam Hemsworth, Embeth Davidtz, Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford star in a scene from the movie "Paranoia."
Though the twisting path of its plot feels well-rutted, the corporate conspiracy thriller "Paranoia" (Relativity) does chart its protagonist's journey to a morally respectable version of personal redemption.

Along the way, viewers are invited to join him in rejecting the ethical nihilism that frequently surrounds him in the cutthroat milieu that provides the film's setting—and to embrace old-fashioned standards of right and wrong instead.

The flagrant character defects our future hero initially displays show just how far he has to go: Consumed by materialistic visions of the good life, and by envy-driven ambition, computer whiz-kid Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) does not react well to being professionally thwarted.

So when a pitch to his callous boss, Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman), goes horribly wrong and gets his entire tech team fired, Adam seeks revenge by using his company credit card to fund a high-rolling nightlong bender for himself and his unfortunate colleagues.

Waking up beside the fetching stranger who caught his eye on the dance floor during the binge—and whose name he still doesn't know—Adam finds he has more to cope with than just social awkwardness and a hangover. Hauled into Wyatt's office, he's given an unpleasant choice: Face prosecution for his illicit expenditure or cooperate in Wyatt's plan to bring down rival CEO Jock Goddard (Harrison Ford).

Once Wyatt's mentor and partner, Goddard has become his prime competitor and bitterest enemy. Wyatt wants Adam to infiltrate Goddard's outfit so he can gain access to the game-changing new product they're about to launch.

Once undercover, Adam falls for Emma Jennings (Amber Heard), one of Goddard's top executives. He also finds himself drawn to Goddard, whose polished manner is a welcome contrast to Wyatt's brutish demeanor.

Back home, Adam resolutely ignores the sensible guidance offered him by his working-class father Frank (Richard Dreyfuss). After all, he reasons, what would someone who stayed in the same job his whole life and who showed no longing for wealth or power know about anything?

As Adam works his way back to the positive values with which he was raised, he finds an acceptable (though farfetched) resolution to his professional dilemma and deepens his bonds with Emma.

Though the two gradually move toward genuine commitment, as earlier scenes have shown us, both Adam and Emma operate from the flawed premise that romantic relationships begin with a physical connection and either flourish or wither away after that.

Overall, "Paranoia" conveys a sound enough message, but the story used to deliver it seems stale.

The film contains some action violence, semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, an off-screen casual encounter, numerous sexual jokes and references, a couple of uses of profanity, at least one rough term and occasional crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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