Director: Neil Marshall
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Chronicle is another of those “found-footage” films (see The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Cloverfield) that puts the audience in the hands of the characters in the film to actually do the filming. Unlike the three films mentioned above, Chronicle is very much more of a character study than a film that’s trying to play tricks with the camera (Yes I’m looking at you Paranormal Activity) or simply be creative in trying to show monsters killing people in New York City (Cloverfield). This film actually finds a new way to show the dynamics of the high-school life and how much certain relationships and privileges can affect certain… things.
Chronicle basically has three different semi-stereotypical characters that are brought together when they find a cave with something in it that gives them telekinetic powers (I know that sounds silly but just go with it). There’s the ultra-popular kid Steve Montgomery, who is really wonderfully played by Michael B. Jordan of Friday Night Lights fame and, going further back, Wallace from the greatest show ever (The Wire). There’s Alex Russell, the kid who would be popular but thinks he’s above all of that, played by Matt Garetty. And then there’s Andrew, who has many problems. His mother is fatally sick, his father is an abusive alcoholic, he gets bullied at school, and he’s not so popular with really anyone. This character is played by Dane DeHaan, who reminds me quite eerily of a found Leonardo DiCaprio in this film.
All three of these characters become friends quickly during their senior year and start to discover what they can do with their powers by first experimenting in their back yards. Eventually, they decide to take their powers out into the world and play a few cut tricks in a grocery store, such as scaring the crap out of a little girl by making it seem like a teddy bear has come alive and moving a woman’s car to a different parking spot. After a few minutes of seeing some of the fun, juvenile things they can do, a moment comes where the kids realize that some real damage can be done with the powers they’ve been granted, as Andrew runs a car off the road after it had been tailgating their car.
After this incident in particular, the audience becomes aware that this film is much more than just showing some cool things happen. Andrew is a character with some pretty big issues. Although they are your typical issues you see on stories that are shown on news programs like Dateline and 60 minutes, this is definitely a film that tries for more than just the cheap thrill, and differentiates itself from the majority of found footage films by doing so.
I will criticize the film for possibly being a little bit too generic with the characters. Andrew seemingly has every single typical thing wrong with his life that you have seen in any film or TV show about high school. It feels like maybe they compounded the problems a little bit too much. Having said that, it’s possible the filmmakers needed a reason to make Andrew go to the dark place the audience eventually sees him get to. The problems he has are substantial enough to where one would expect him to get to a breaking point.
Overall the film is charming, thrilling, funny, suspenseful, and poignant to some degree. It’s not often we get a film this good getting a theatrical release when it did (February of 2012). This was a great joy to watch, and is far and above most of the seemingly endless stream of found footage films that have been brought out since The Blair Witch Project. The camera work for this one is a lot better than most films of this ilk as well. There are even parts where they use the telekinesis to make it seem like its a “real” film, which brought a pleasant little tweak to the genre.
My Rating: 4 out of 5