Chronicle (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Chronicle (2012)

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I am confused at what's happening right now. I just checked the calendar again and we are still in the early parts of February.  That doesn’t seem right, because January and February are the notorious dumping grounds for movies that the studios have no reason to believe in because they are mostly terrible excuses for film.

This year has been different. January saw the release of enjoyable action film Haywire and the excellent, harrowing drama The Grey. Now, right on the heels of those films we have Chronicle a film that heralds a new talent behind the camera and shows you can still make a good found footage film if there's an interesting concept and the right people working on the film.

For Chronicle, two facets of myself were in a constant battle on whether I should see this movie or not.  On the one hand, I am a comic book geek and have enjoyed many comic films in the last decade and the trailer for Chronicle appealed to me.  On the flip side, I am sick to death of found footage movies and after Cloverfield, Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity, [Rec] and many more I feel like that genre has been bled dry.  Thankfully the comic book nerd in me won out and I took a chance on this film, which I am most thankful for because Chronicle added something new to the clichéd genres of both found footage films and the comic origin stories.

Flying bears? Holy crap, it's the end times.

This film is an origin story through and through.  It starts out with Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a loner high school student with many problems at hand, with a drunk father and a dying mother at home.  He retreats into the world and always has a camera as a barrier between him and the rest of the world.  The only person he could consider close to a friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) who takes pity on the outcast and takes him to school.  Matt pushes Andrew to come with him to a party and it is here that Matt and his good friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find a giant hole in the ground.

Wanting to get the footage on tape, they drag Andrew with them and do what any idiot teenager would do, jump into the hole without a moments notice.  At the bottom of the pit, they found an out of this world thing that is giving them headaches and messing with the camera.  Again, since they teenagers, instead of getting away from the unknown entity doing weird stuff, they go up to it and touch it.

Soon after this night, they are learning that they can move things with their minds.  Although it starts out with them only able to control small things like baseballs and pebbles, soon enough they are able to control the camera without using their hands, moving cars and in the end flying.  While Steve and Matt want to keep this quiet and agree that their powers should not be used on people or in anger, Andrew has not had the high school experience they have had and is dealing with some issues.  Although both Steve and Matt are very friendly to Andrew and treat him like a true friend and equal, Andrew falls further and further into an angry, dark place.

Seriously, don't trust Google Maps.

The movie does not create anything new and falls the story of many origin stories by showing how they get their powers and what separates the heroes from the villains. While the three main actors are relative unknowns, their performances move the film out of the cheesy realm into something more.  Duan DeHaan had the hardest role in the film, playing a guy who is both an asshole but you still feel bad for him and you want to see him put to rest his troubles and survive to see another day.

DeHaan could have aped off of Carrie and called it a day but he didn’t.  The slow change in his character and the way he totally inhabits this semi-creepy character was superb and I think he will be an actor that will be in demand after this film.  Russell had a much easier role of playing the “hero” of the piece but he again gives it his all and makes a very good Superman type character.  The one actor who was a bit underused in the film was Steve, and that is a shame because I have always been a fan of Michael B. Jordan ("The Wire", "Friday Night Lights") and would have loved to see him a bit more in the film.

As good as the acting is in the film, the true find is director Josh Trank.  I can’t remember the last time I was this blown away by the debut of a director but I can say I think this guy has real talent.  Like I have said previously, I am not a fan of the found footage genre, but he made it enjoyable for the first time in years.  By making the characters figure out how to control the camera through telekinesis early in the film,  the viewer isn’t saddled with the shaky cam and amateurish shot compositions of regular found footage films, instead the camera is free to move around wherever and makes this film visually interesting.

"Guys? Guys? Are you sure this is what a 'glory hole' is supposed to be?"

Trank also knows about escalation and builds the movie and tension up to the boiling point.  For 90% of the film, the movie and director cares about strengthening the world and character instead of throwing action scene after action scene at the audience.  Although the flying scenes are amazing to watch and makes you feel like you are in the skies with the characters, most of the film up until the climax is setting up the end battle and the movie is better for it.

I will admit it, I was expecting something low budget for the end of the film and was surprised when they film went insane for the end of the film and had flying buses, exploding buildings and destruction.  I wasn’t expecting it from the film and when it happened it made the film even more exciting.  Chronicle is a film that showcases some good performances and an interesting spin on a tried and true formula and a wonderful directing debut.  While I was the oldest in my theater by a large margin while watching Chronicle, this movie is not just for teenagers.

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Posted by Ryan

Comments (5) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’m impressed with the amount of good reviews this film is getting. At first I dismissed it as an overused sub-genre both in terms of found-footage and superheroes but this looks like it has a lot more going for it. Thanks for the this excellent review – I’ll have to check it out when it arrives at my nearest multiplex.

  2. I don’t recall ever watching another found footage before Chronicle, because maybe I ignored the horrors. But Chronicle was amazing, very creative, though I did not like the ending. Great write-up!

  3. Good review Ryan. There isn’t much new or different this film is doing or saying but the format works perfectly and gets us inside the heads of these characters through all of the fun and not-so fun moments as well.

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