Disturbing Realism Recorded in Chronicle
- Thursday, February 09, 2012
DVD Release Date: May 15, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: February 3, 2012
Rating: PG-13 (for intense action and violence, thematic material, some language, sexual content and teen drinking)
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Run Time: 83 min.
Director: Josh Trank
Actors: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell, Michael Kelly
It’s a story of friendship found and lost. A story of ordinary mortals turned superheroes (of a sort). A story of what might happen if immature, adolescent boys were given overwhelming powers. Things go about as well as you might expect... which is to say, not well at all.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan, TV's In Treatment) is the misfit of the group, a slightly creepy loner with a dying mother, abusive alcoholic father, and a new video camera. He decides to ‘chronicle’ everything and takes his camera everywhere, which is how we manage to get in on the action. Andrew first uses the camera as a barrier to keep a safe distance from other people but before long, he’s living vicariously through the lens and hardly seems to exist off-camera, even in his own mind. (It’s a credit to DeHaan’s skillful performance that we easily follow his emotional journey even while he holds his feelings so close.)
Andrew’s only claim to friendship is his cousin Matthew (Alex Russell), a likeable boy who tries to drag his lame cousin out of his shell. Matthew drags Andrew along to a party (camera in tow) where they join forces with popular “vote for me” Steve (Michael B. Jordan, Red Tails) to explore a... thing. What the thing is remains unclear, but it gives the three boys bloody noses—and supernatural powers.
The three boys do a stellar job of making their “types” into believable characters navigating the swirling waters of high school with various levels of success. They seem normal, even when playing football in the clouds or building Lego structures sans hands. There’s no comic book “we can save the world” kind of plot twist here, just the logical progression of boys who discover they have singular powers. What average guy wouldn’t use that gift to play a few practical jokes or try to break into the popular crowd and get in good with the ladies?
Former victim Andrew revels in his new-found power and popularity. Matthew is the conscientious one, trying to impose rules and sanity on the group, while Steve just wants everybody to be happy and have a good time. The story follows the arc of the three boys’ unlikely friendship until it all goes horribly wrong. How could it not? Power corrupts, and when power is given to boys with minimal moral standards (not to mention raging hormones and emotional issues), misuse and mayhem is inevitable.
Impressively, especially for a teen film, the dialogue is unforced and sadly natural (“sadly” because while the language is often coarse, it’s also typical of many high school-ers). The “found film” documentary style of Chronicle could have been annoying, but instead manages to appear remarkably realistic. It helps that Andrew soon learns to hold his camera through telekinesis, resulting in a steady picture. Even later, when our young protagonists are too busy to hold a camera, we keep up on the action through security camera footage, camera phones, and the like. While this may sound contrived, it doesn’t feel that way.
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