Published Feb 02, 2012A fresh perspective can do wonders. First-time feature director Josh Trank takes two oversaturated genres that have been showing their limitations and amends the rule books of each in order to craft an emotionally and visually dynamic film that demonstrates how a creative application of thematically appropriate tools can reinvigorate techniques used lackadaisically by lesser storytellers.
While it doesn't hinge on any major twists, it's still best to approach Chronicle knowing as little as possible about the story. Andrew Detmer (played by Dane DeHaan, giving a mature and nuanced performance), a socially awkward high school senior, buys a camera and begins filming around home to deter, or capture, his alcoholic father's abusive behaviour. The camera provides a buffer for him at school also, a reason for the distance he feels from his peers, and so he starts filming constantly.
While Andrew's having a shitty time at a rave, outgoing and popular class president hopeful Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan, Wallace from The Wire, all grown up and exuding charm on the scale of Donald Glover) excitedly urges him to follow him into the woods to film something strange he found with his buddy, Matt, who is also Andrew's cousin. After a mysterious encounter, the next time we see the boys, they're filming each other doing some unusual tricks.
And what would a group of teenagers do if they found themselves in possession of burgeoning superpowers? Why, pull pranks and have a heck of a lot of fun! Not everyone who gains paranormal abilities has some noble, dead relative to avenge and such an inflated sense of self-purpose that they need to become some kind of vigilante saviour. Andrew, Steve and Matt are just regular kids brought together by a strange bond, and that's a huge part of Chronicle's appeal.
The rapport between them feels very natural and the glee they demonstrate while experimenting with their newfound abilities is infectious. It's a testament to Trank and screenwriter Max Landis's storytelling instincts that the development of the kinship between the three takes up the bulk of the picture. Shit doesn't hit the fan on a large scale until the final act. Having so much fun while getting to know the characters makes the unexpected turn towards tragedy all the more compelling.
This could be considered a minor spoiler, but it's essential to what sets Chronicle apart from any other found-footage film: if a character can move objects with his mind, that includes the camera. The steady transformation of characters and shooting style, as linked to the plot, is expertly paced and smartly conceived.
An unexpected success that breathes new life into tired tropes and a strong signifier of two considerable young talents, in Josh Trank and Max Landis, Chronicle should delight jaded and easily excitable filmgoers alike. (Fox)