Monday, April 23, 2012


February 3, 2012
84 min

Directed by Josh Trank
Written by Max Landis

"Chronicle" stretches the conventions of the found footage sub-genre for better and worse. It is a dark character study that impresses and perplexes.

I love the concept of  "found footage" and favor a few of its successors: "The Blair Witch Project" set the film world on fire, "Cloverfield" and "[REC]" absolutely rocked the movie house, and the on-going "Paranormal Activity" series is surprisingly still good three films in. Early this year we received the latest attempt at this concept, "Chronicle," at a time infamous for measly dregs of the theaters. It was a pleasant surprise and quickly garnered cinephile buzz and prestige.

In his first feature film Josh Trank shows competent vision for a story following three high-school students who acquire supernatural powers. Just like in Sam Raimi's now-classic "Spider-Man," it is thrilling to watch our young heroes discover their abilities. Front and center is Andrew (a standout performance from new-face Dane DeHaan) who is in desperate need of meaning and assurance in his life. At school he gets slammed against lockers, at home he avoids his drunk of a father, and he can hardly receive consolation from his bed-ridden, cancer-stricken mother. He bonds and bands with his cousin, Matt, and unexpectedly, Steve (a popular jock/student body president type), as partners in power.

As the curious trio experiment the film fast embraces the dismal tones we sense from the start. Not unlike the Japanese showpiece, "Akira," we learn that with great power comes the potential for great wrong-doing (a nice play on what "Spider-Man" taught us). Andrew seems like the type of kid on the fast track to retaliating upon his surroundings. In this post-Columbine country is particular unsettling to think about.

From the first shot the camera is as much a narrative tool as it is a means for the film to even exist. As the situations become more serious you will no doubt wonder why our lead even brings the camera around with him anymore. It becomes a head-scratching hindrance to the plot, so much that I even wondered why they chose to go with the found footage approach in the first place. The film's special effects are also a mixed bag. There is a painfully silly-looking baseball used to demonstrate one of the group's early realized powers. Later scenes take place in a very unique setting, but again, feel far too fatuous. That said, some car crashes and action pieces are fairly remarkable for a film of this caliber. "Chronicle" does not disappoint because it came out of nowhere. By this year's end I will still count this among the more memorable films.


CONTENT: language, brief sensuality, and moments of intense violence

Updated 4.23.12


Ellie said...

This film left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I say that entirely as a viewer and not as a critic or reviewer. Uniqueness and any other good qualities aside, it just turned out to be too dark for me... thought provoking certainly, but I too wondered why he bothered with the camera in the end and then I wondered why I had bothered with watching him.

As a compliment to the actor, I really did believe him to be a terrifying sociopath.

M.S. said...

You're right J.S., the camera work was an effective storytelling tool with this film. I thought the film did a good job defining everybody's character and it made the climax all the more tragic.

And thanks to movies, I've learned that every high school in America is wealthy, has cliche bullies and always throws gigantic parties that would make celebrities jealous.