PLOT: Three high school seniors stumble upon a strange cavern which gives them telekinetic abilities. At first, the three use their new powers for fun and mischief, but as their abilities start to grow, so does the temptation to give in to their darker impulses.
REVIEW: I really wasn’t looking forward to CHRONICLE, and I don’t think anyone can blame me. I mean a found-footage superhero film? Surely this was going to be one for the books, and not in a good way. Walking into the premiere, I buckled down and expected the worst. Imagine my surprise when, within literally the first few seconds- when unbalanced teen Andrew (Dane DeHaan) has locked his abusive father in a closet and is tearfully saying that from now on, all of his abuse will be documented with his new camera, I was hooked. Clearly, CHRONICLE was going to be a cut above your average found-footage potboiler.
From there, the film just sinks its claws into you and doesn’t let go. Despite the super-scant eighty-minute running time, CHRONICLE never fells rushed. Rather, the entire first half of the film is spent getting to know our three leads (DeHaan, Alex Russell, and the mega-charismatic Michael B. Jordan from PARENTHOOD & FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS). Before they get their powers, the three can barely tolerate each other, with DeHaan being the creepy outsider (not helped by his new found obsession with video cameras), Russell playing his cousin, who can barely tolerate him, but hangs out with him mainly due to pity, and Jordan- as the ultra-popular jock/overachiever. Their new powers immediately equalize the three, and from there they become inseparable as they share the joy of their new powers, including the ability to fly.
The curve ball comes about halfway way into the movie, when an accident inadvertently unleashes Andrew’s repressed darkness, leading to a reign of terror that ends with probably the best superhero battle I’ve seen since SUPERMAN II. The last fifteen or so minutes of CHRONICLE hurtle forward like a freight-train, and features some incredibly innovative carnage- doubly impressive as the film reportedly only carries a $15million price tag.
Now, the found-footage aspect may put some people off. As a rule, I’m not a fan of these types of films, but CHRONICLE goes right where a lot of these films go wrong. Most importantly, the film is well cast- as all three leads are rock-solid, with each bringing something fresh to their parts. DeHaan simmers with repressed rage, while Jordan swaggers with the best of em’. Alex Russell probably has the hardest part, as he’s tasked with playing the noble, kindhearted-one, and of the trio- he’s supposed to be the guy with the most potential to become an all-out hero, but he’s eminently likable.
As for the filming technique, CHRONICLE isn’t limited to the footage recovered from Andrew’s camera. There’s no gimmick whereupon someone’s reviewing Andrew’s tapes after the events of the film take place. Rather- we’re just seeing things through the lens of any camera that happens to be close by, and the resolution and look changes depending on the camera- ranging from Andrew’s initially low-res, outdated DV-Cam, to black and white security cams, and more. All in all very effective. Watching CHRONICLE is almost enough to make me reconsider my stand on found-footage films, although I think, more than anything, the effectiveness of CHRONICLE has less to do with the gimmick being used to tell the tale, and everything with the talent behind the camera. It’s worth noting that Max Landis’ screenplay for CHRONICLE was on The Black List at one point, and for once- the black list hype lives up to the finished film. Director Josh Trank also strikes me as a big potential new directing talent, and if the rumors about him being behind the FANTASTIC FOUR reboot are true- count me’ in.