We apologise that our Chronicle review has hit the web so late. Our (Stephen’s) tardiness puts you, the reader, in one of two categories: Now that Chronicle has been in cinemas for a full week you have probably already seen the film and loved it (if not, what’s wrong with you?), or you are still on the fence/in the group of people who think the film looks naff. Well, grumpy face, I also thought Chronicle looked pretty unspectacular too. Sure, it seemed worth the £10 for the ticket but it also looked like another boring found footage film in a genre that is already looking very bloated this year.
But appearances can be deceiving. I just came out of Man On A Ledge hoping that it would be chock full of B-Movie idiocies and unbearable acting – as the trailer suggested; when it was in fact a more than decent film. That trailer deceived me! Cinema is always lying (allegedly); Chronicle, for one, isn’t even a found footage film – more on that later – and its exploration of ‘Superpowers ABC, 123’ is far superior to those seen in the better half of the last two decades’ bazillion superhero films.
The film follows – literally – Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a friendless only child; beaten by his drunk of a father and abused by his high school peers. Andrew begins to film his every move as an experiment (though it’s never exactly clear why) and whilst at a party he is pulled away by his cousin, Matt (Michael Kelly) and the school’s student body president, Steve (Michael B. Jordan) to a hollow in a nearby wood. Exploring the site the trio come across an ominous object which reacts to their presence, causing them to black out. Over the next few weeks the newly formed group of friends realize that they have developed telekinesis (the power to move things using the mind) and before long they begin to abuse their power which inevitably affects the friends’ dynamic and ultimate destiny.
Debut director Josh Trank and first-major-feature scribe Max Landis (son of John) manage to create an excellent film with the seemingly done-to-death idea of superhero beginnings. The story’s main beats are pretty much standard (as well as being somewhat very similar to Stephen King’s novel, Carrie) but the way that the trio’s relationship becomes staggeringly real is certainly down to excellent film craftsmanship by Trank and Landis. Not to give the creative team all the glory though, the performances and striking chemistry between the leads only aids in making Chronicle a tour de force of genuinely affecting story-telling and an excellent piece of cinema.
What really sets Chronicle apart from other found-footage films is not just the way that the characters begin to have the camera follow them by use of their telekinesis (thereby allowing all three on-screen for full coverage) but also the District 9-like use of jumping to other camera footage (security cameras, tourists, other characters with cameras) to branch out from the singular camera narrative, allowing multiple perspectives – which again, reminds one of the storytelling used in Carrie – suspending our disbelief that little bit more for non-stop enjoyment.
Despite the fact that the trailers gave the impression that the film doesn’t add much to the found footage ‘genre’ or superhero/sci-fi lore Chronicle displays some sharp character profiling in an emotional and genuine way. Let’s just say that The Dark Knight Rises has got a bit to live up to.