Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: Chronicle

So, thumbs-up on Chronicle.

When the trailers first hit, I was wary. Not skeptical, exactly, but I was definitely looking at this movie sideways. This is the kind of cool idea that could either hit big or miss the mark entirely and wind up being a vapid void of wasted potential. Fortunately, Chronicle wound up being the former.

Shown to us in found-footage-vision, Chronicle is the story of Andrew (Dane DeHaan), a quiet loner who has had a rough life, his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) and their friend, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), who suddenly find themselves with telekinetic abilities. As they use their powers more, they discover that they are getting stronger. Andrew, in particular, struggles with this, as he desires more and more to strike back against the tormentors that have become fixtures in his life. The others attempt to provide a moral compass, trying to keep Andrew in check as he comes closer and closer to spiraling out of control.

The character development was one of the main reasons Chronicle worked so well. This film doesn't have villains. Andrew goes Dark Side with his super powers, sure, but because the filmmakers spent so much time establishing him and his life throughout the film, you never identify him as a bad guy. When he goes off the rails, you just want to grab him and hug him as much as you did in the first couple of scenes when he was getting his ass kicked at school. They really tow the line between making you shocked that shit is going so terribly bad, and making you empathize with why it got there in the first place. They took the time to get us to see him as a person and to understand his motivations.

This films gives new life to the found-footage angle. You think you're tired of this gimmick, but you won't be once you've seen Chronicle. It's not the same old shaky-cam footage you're expecting. Director Josh Trank gets very clever with it and uses it to give us shots we wouldn't logically have with a traditional camera set-up, and the way he shot it allows us to see more of the camera man, rather than just being a voice behind the lens and occasionally some running feet. While not absolutely necessary to the telling of the story, it does allow the audience a more intimate relationship with the characters

Chronicle is a super-hero origin story that puts the PEOPLE, not the POWERS, front and center.  The three kids are really what holds the story together - sure, the flying and car smashing stuff is cool, but would have been lost had it not been centered around characters that you could not only identify with, but actually care about as well. We really get to see how the addition of these abilities brings these characters together as friends and subsequently rips them apart. It's a moving morality tale, a creative spin on the super-hero origin story and a hell of a fun ride.

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