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Friday, 26 December 2014

REVIEW - CHRONICLE (2012)

Directed by: Josh Trank
Written by: Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Release date: February 3rd, 2012


There have been countless stories to come out of Hollywood depicting someone having to come to terms with newfound superpowers, but never has it been explored in the way it's been here. Presented in found-footage format, Chronicle - with its relatively low-key marketing - appears out of absolutely nowhere and rocks you to the core. It takes a concept that most modern filmmakers of superhero movies intentionally avoid and tackles it head on, and gives us something very unique and refreshing.

Andrew (Dane DeHaan) doesn't have much going for him. He's a lonely and socially awkward teenager with an abusive father. After reluctantly attending a party, Andrew, his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and popular kid Steve (Michael B. Jordan) stumble across an unknown subterranean artifact, which gives them the powers of flight and telekinesis.


As deceptively ordinary as the above summary might sound, it's the way the story progresses and how the relationships between the characters change that makes Chronicle special. It's best if you go into this movie blind, and that includes avoiding certain promotional posters that give you hints through taglines. It won't spoil your enjoyment if you already have a fair idea of what may happen, but stay away from these things if you can, because if you do then the already-stunning climax will be even more effective.

When the boys first gain their powers, they behave like typical teenagers, using their new abilities to play pranks on unsuspecting bystanders, play sky football, and generally just goof around. It's very fun to watch and all three performances are great, but then when you've grown attached to these relatable characters and you care about them, the movie thrusts them right into a situation that they can't control, and for the viewer it's an unexpected and highly emotional experience wracked with tension and harbouring a very clear sense of dread. Chronicle wastes no time taking you right into the story, and the whole thing is paced brilliantly and quickly. There's never a dull moment.


It's no secret that the found-footage genre is far from beloved. It's been driven into the ground recently, spawning a legion of failures, particularly when it comes to horror. Oftentimes it's used as an excuse by the director to take a day off and try to justify sloppiness for authenticity, but here, while Chronicle probably could've worked just as well in a standard format, the found-footage aspect actually benefits the movie in some ways and makes it unlike anything the genre has ever seen. The vast majority of the movie is shown to us through Andrew's camera, after he decides to capture every aspect of his day-to-day life on film (apparently, because he "wants a barrier"). You might start to question the convenience of the camera being around: Andrew is obsessed with the thing and for some reason nobody bothers to move it or turn it off most of the time, but regardless it isn't a big problem. It helps to make the relationship between the audience and Andrew more intimate as almost everything we see is through his eyes, and while it still has the unavoidable raw feel of a found-footage movie, a lot of the camerawork is actually quite stable, so much so that you may occasionally forget that it's found-footage in the first place. Those with a distaste for shaky cam should be fine.

It also helps to make the movie feel as genuine as possible. Even by found-footage standards, everything just feels so real. It's a combination of many things: the found-footage style, the seamlessly integrated CGI and practical effects, the way the story pans out, and the characters who are much more believable and realistic than pretty much any others who've been given supernatural powers in a mainstream movie. It's a big part of what gives Chronicle its emotional weight, and makes it so effective.


Chronicle is not for the faint of heart, but it packs more accomplishment and innovation in its short runtime than most of its "superhero" peers do in two hours or more. The three leads make an easily convincing ensemble, and inexperienced screenwriter Max Landis and first-time director Trank (both 26 years old during Chronicle's release) are ones to watch. This movie takes two overstuffed genres that shouldn't really work together, and manages to blend them together for a riveting final product. This is not another dull Blair Witch wannabe, nor is this really a superhero movie - at least not in the traditional sense - so don't write Chronicle off as just another entry into a bloated genre. There isn't really anything else like it.