Sunday, February 26, 2012

Review: Chronicle

Non Spoiler Review:
Chronicle is the latest entry in the found footage genre, directed by Josh Trank and written by Max Landis. After tackling the paranormal and monsters, it's now super-heroes that get the shaky-cam treatment. I walked in really hoping this movie lived up to the very intriguing trailer.

The film deals with three high school seniors. Shy and emotionally damaged Andrew has decided to film every aspect of his life (something that doesn't make him any less of an outcast among his high school peers). One night at a rave, Andrew, Steve and Matt's lives are brought together when they find a mysterious alien-like object that has a startling effect on all of them—super-powers. Chronicle charts their evolution and growing friendship as the trio begins to hone their talent.

The plot focuses on the effects super-powers would have on three young men—one relatively normal, the other an over-achieving extrovert, and an emotionally (and physically) abused introvert. It's really the dynamic between these three actors (Michael B. Jordan, Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell) that is the main strength of the script. The high school scenes and general interaction all feel very genuine, and there's no one who comes off as a caricature.

Another major strength is that Chronicle avoids any focus on where their powers come from, besides the initial encounter. It's all a big mystery, and while some fans might want a breakdown of exactly what happened to them, and an itemized list of their power levels, this was about the characters and how each handle their life changing abilities.

Watching the first half of the film I felt it was all very good, but nothing spectacular (comparing it to my expectations from the trailer). However, the final stretch really knocked things out of the park, delivering the same level of tension as Cloverfield during its climactic battle.

I always wonder how someone would actually react to receiving such abilities. Perhaps the three of them took it a bit more cavalierly than I would think. Though, to be fair, the film does jump ahead a few weeks after the exposure, so we're spared all the shock and awe of them coming to terms with it. There's also the other end of the spectrum—how would the media react to extraordinary and inexplicable super-shenannigans happening on camera in a major city? We get some of that too.

There's little to criticize once you buy into the concept. As with all found footage movies, there's a necessary suspension of disbelief that so much of everyone's life could be captured on film. Though they do take pains to explain this and work it into the plot, as well. There is also a variety of other camera footage (surveillance and cell phone cameras, etc) that provide additional perspectives.

In many ways it's a modern tragedy. It's not terribly complex (the trajectory of Andrew is no surprise), but it works so well just because it doesn't try to achieve any more than it is. If all the character development isn't your thing, the climax is quite intense and provides a very gritty and suitably over-the-top conclusion for a super-hero flick. If you really don't enjoy the found footage genre, this likely won't change your mind. But if Cloverfield rocked your world like me, then you should really walk out of this one satisfied.

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