Chronicle (2012)

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan

“There’s this thing, right, it’s called the apex predator. And basically what this is, is the strongest animal in the ecosystem, right? And as human beings, we’re considered the apex predator but only because smaller animals can’t feed on us because of weapons and stuff, right? A lion does not feel guilty when it kills a gazelle, right? You do not feel guilty when you squash a fly. And I think that means something.” (Andrew, Chronicle)

Andrew is not a cheery chappy. His mum is dying, his alcoholic dad beats him and he’s got no friends. His only solace is a video camera that he uses to film his life and document the various goings-on around him. In short, things could be going better.

The three leads work well together and are very convincing chums

One night at a party Andrew’s cousin Matt and Steve Montgomery – a popular kid running for school president – ask Andrew to come with them to film a huge hole they’ve found in the woods. While investigating the hole the trio fall in and end up in a cave, where they find a huge glowing structure. Some weird shit goes down and the camera glitches out and breaks, switching off.

We rejoin them a short while later after the three teens have somehow managed to leave the cave. Things are different though – they now have super powers. At first they’re able to simply move objects with their mind, but as they flex their telekinesis “muscles” and are able to move progressively larger objects, things get a little more serious and Andrew starts toying with the idea of using his powers to punish the society that shunned him. 

Andrew's powers mean the camera isn't so much handheld as mindheld

The first half of Chronicle is great fun. As the trio get used to their new abilities they do the sort of things you’d expect a group of teenagers would do – use them to mess around. They move leaf-blowers over to schoolgirls to blow up their skirts, they go to toy shops and freak children out with floating toys and they make YouTube-style Jackass clips where they stab each other with forks, throw baseballs at each other and move peoples’ cars around in car parks to confuse them. These guys are no Spider-Men – to them, with great power comes great irresponsibility.

The whole film’s shot as “found” footage in the style of The Blair Witch Project and Troll Hunter – most of it is shot through Andrew’s camera but a short while into the film we conveniently meet Casey, Matt’s ex who also happens to film everything she sees (for her blog). Talk about a coincidence.

This fairly shameless introduction is just an excuse for the filmmakers to break the whole “found footage” restrictions and introduce multiple camera angles. The rules are broken even further when Andrew realises he no longer has to hold his camera, instead using his powers to make it float around him and essentially allowing the film to make use of any crane, tracking and steadycam shots a normal movie can use.

He might think he's all cool as shit just now but wait until he remembers he's left his laptop in there

As things start getting out of hand and the movie gets a little darker Chronicle does start to lose its momentum a little, but it still remains compelling. The three leads interact well together and though a couple of major turning points could be seen a mile off (particularly those involving Andrew’s parents) there’s still a desire to see how it all ends.

One slightly disappointing aspect is the final act, in which the whole handheld camera gimmick is stretched to the point that it’s no longer convincing. At one point Andrew stops the incredibly important thing he’s doing (no spoilers, mind) to grab a bunch of iPhones and small cameras and pull them all toward him, giving him a selection of suspiciously high-quality and cinematic camera angles to choose from. It doesn’t detract too much from proceedings mind you, it’s just a shame because I’d have liked to see the handheld gimmick survive through to the end.

Chronicle is a pleasant surprise, turning both the superhero genre and the “found footage” film style on their respective heads. It could have done with a stronger conclusion but for the most part this is one worth seeing.

Chronicle is in cinemas now.

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