Chronicle is one of those films that just comes out of nowhere and slaps you over the head. The marketing for the film has been low-key and mostly of the “viral” variety. A tumblr showcased Chronicle art by fans and artists; while /film reports that the film hired a marketing company to fly 3 people-shaped remote-controlled planes around some New York Bridges. The trailer, while giving some indication of what we might see in the film, remains quite vague and shows jumbled-up clips from all over the film. The result of all of this is that you go into Chronicle a little intrigued with only a fleeting idea what you might see.
Is Chronicle a found-footage film, a supernatural film, an action, a dark comedy, a family drama, a tale of friendships? Chronicle is in fact a really interesting and unique combination of all of these. It’s a small budget film with big budget results.
The film centres around social outcast Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who comes from a rough home with a mother who is dying and an abusive alcoholic father. Andrew takes to recording everything on video, and it is through his recording that we gain a sense of how truly desperate his life is. Bullied and cast out at every turn – he is the portrait of an unhappy and marginalised teenager.
It is when he is out videotaping that he is asked to film something which his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and Matt’s popular friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) have discovered. Through this discovery the three boys gain superhuman powers, and from there the film follows them as they learn both how to use their powers and how to live with them. What starts of as innocent fun and pranks, soon escalates into something more serious; and for one boy it becomes something rather dark indeed.
While there are plenty of found-footage films out there, this one stands out as a very well executed one. The footage is largely shot by Andrew, who uses the camera as somewhat of a security blanket between him and the world around him. At times the footage is extremely shaky and all over the place, while other times it is perfectly still and very raw. The film also employs the use of other cameras such as CCTV, security cameras, and that of the rather too convenient video-blogger Casey (Ashley Hinslaw) as sources of footage. At times the film’s need to show everything as “found-footage” seems needless and draws you out of the film.
It is the engaging and interesting characters which add the extra dimension to this found-footage film. This is not often found in other films in the genre, which often just focus on scares and not story. Andrew is such a broken person, and your heart just aches for him because you understand the root of his issues. Dane DeHaan must be given credit for his extremely strong performance. Michael B. Jordan (known for Friday Night Lights & The Wire) delivers a charismatic performance as the very likeable Steve; while Matt is the boy-nextdoor type of guy who is the glue that holds the three of them together. The chemistry between the three is fantastic – the more comedic scenes are particularly strong and will have you smiling.
Chronicle could easily be a film preaching about the pitfalls of power, or a moralistic film where the characters decide to use their powers to fight some type of evil or wrong. Instead Chronicle is ultimately a character-centred film which employs the found-footage technique (to mostly successful results) to tell the story. While the film languishes in the second half and some of the sources of the footage is slightly absurd, it is a high-energy, engaging film which can be counted amongst the highest quality films in the found-footage genre. It must be also be added that it is awesome fun to watch.
Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Max Landis
Starring: Dane Dehaan, Micahel B. Jordan, Alex Russell
Runtime: 83 minutes
Release date: February 2nd 2012 in most major markets
(Note: this review was originally posted on my tumblr)