Chronicle – Review
Chronicle turned out to be an unexpected gem, I would put this down to the marketing for the film. It was very unique, it didn’t reveal itself for what it truly was, but it certainly placed an idea of what it may be in my mind, and as it turned out it was quite a lot different than expectations.
I was a little weary going into this because it is a ‘found footage’ type of film, and I am not the biggest fan of the genre. It can either work, or it really fails, and I tend to never really have high expectations for them. This looked a little different and it seemed to be shot much better than most, so that at least was a positive for me. It also promoted that it was about teens with superpowers, something we have seen time and again but this looked different and folks, it really was.
The film follows Andrew (Dane DeHaan), he’s the outcast, he gets picked on, has no friends, an abusive father and a sick mother. He one day decides to start filming everything in his life, having a camera around sure has it perks. Andrew kind of hangs out with his cousin of the same age Matt (Alex Russell), who tries to help Andrew be sociable. This backfires at a party, and Andrew is left outside alone, but High School hero Steve (Michael B. Jordan) finds him and asks him to bring his camera because ‘they found something’. Once they arrive at the spot, Andrew finds that only Matt has stuck around, so the three boys investigate the ‘something’ and after their encounter they have super powers. This causes them to bond and become inseparable, but having these new powers comes with a price and as one of them starts to show signs of not having full control, things go from bad to worse.
That sure is a long synopsis, but it is needed to really discuss the film. It isn’t exactly a spoiler, some of this is in the trailer and at the end of the day the film will still surprise you even if you know some of the details. This isn’t a film about kids who gain powers and suddenly become heroes, dress up and save the day. No this is a film about kids who get powers, try and deal with having these new abilities, and what they can do with them, and whether they even want them in the long run. It isn’t something that comes easy to these guys, Andrew can control his abilities better than the others, and sure they have fun finding out what they can do, but it doesn’t take long for them to find out they are still human and no matter what powers they have, it wont change things. This film has its fun elements, but it is quite serious deep down, and the messages that it has are quite strong and it will certainly leave its audience thinking about those.
I really dug the ‘found footage’ element here, it was well shot and there was no reason it shouldn’t have been. Andrew who has the camera, comes off as someone who cares about what he’s doing, he wants his camera work to be good. We can believe that, yes he’s going to take care while he films; we rarely have shaky shots unless the kid is being pushed around. We get to see all the boys in a lot of the shots because Andrew uses his abilities to actually hover the camera around them, a very clever and smart move. By seeing all the boys together, we really got engaged with them, we didn’t have a faceless or characterless person filming everything. Their bond and their friendship is a solid anchor for the film, it draws us in and keeps us there, we care about all three of these guys and we want to be there with them.
I don’t think I really need to say how great the main three guys were in this film; Dane DeHaan Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan were all fantastic. Each crafted their own character, each having their strong points and their flaws. The natural chemistry between them really worked with making this friendship and bond something solid and something we could really get behind. These guys are people we want to be around and hang out with; they all did a great job of making their characters real people. The more serious scenes and situations worked as well as the more light and fun ones, as these guys understood the script and their characters well and Josh Trank knew exactly what was needed of his performers.
The script by Max Landis (son of the great John Landis) is quite incredible; the man knew exactly what he was doing. Sure the story isn’t wholly original, but he makes it feel that way. He covers all sorts of issues, issues that are different with each character and ones that every single one of us can relate to in some way. He knows how to write teenagers, these guys felt real, and they aren’t some interpretation of what Hollywood thinks teenagers are like. This reminded me of several European films, ones that understood young people and portrayed them exactly as they are. The story here is also an origin piece, but it actually concludes itself as well. It is a fleshed out well rounded piece, it isn’t based on anything, it isn’t a prequel, sequel or reboot. I really hope Max keeps up the screen writing, the man is incredibly talented and I was so impressed with what he achieved here.
Now on to Josh Trank, another impressive young man, his style and direction here is pretty amazing. I loved how he crafted this film, I loved the look of the film, and he pulled off something pretty special with Chronicle. He has a great understanding of this genre; he steers clear of it being overly typical and makes it such a different experience. We have no shortage of ‘superhero’ films, especially this last decade, but Chronicle really stands out, because it isn’t like anything we have out there. It’s not people dressing up to save the day, its not people without powers wanting to save the day, it’s a pretty frank look at what it means to have these powers. It left me thinking, what would I do if I had powers, and I can easily seeing myself going the way of Andrew. This is such an impressive film, I really enjoyed this a lot and I can’t say enough about it. Sure it has a few flaws, but the flaws it has aren’t anything that will ruin or even taint the experience.
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