Three teenage boys find a cave in the middle of the woods, they go inside, experience something weird and emerge with superpowers. If you are fan of The X-Files, this plot might sound familiar. But Chronicle is not a familiar film.
Yes, Chronicle is reminiscent of successful franchises, such as Heroes, but it treats these themes in an original and quirky way. One of the elements that makes Chronicle stand out is that the camera itself plays the lead role. In the first scene, troubled teenager Andrew Detmer (played by Dane DeHaan) acquires a camera and declares that, in order to defend himself from his violent father, he is going to record his whole life. This provides Chronicle’s director, Josh Trank, with a creative opportunity. He uses mirrors to film two way conversations and frequently has Detmer levitate the camera using his new found telekinesis skills. And, when Detmer’s camera is out of action, Trank uses CCTV footage and home movie cameras of nearby people to tell the story. All of this makes for a creative and visually interesting film.
Chronicle’s characters have depth and, by keeping the character’s powers limited to telekinesis, Chronicle’s writers (Max Landis and Josh Trank) have prevented it from feeling comic book in style. It is possible to believe in both the story and its characters. But neither does Chronicle take itself too seriously and, instead, has fun with the possibilities that telekinesis offers. There is even a scene reminiscent of Harry Potter’s Quidditch as the trio play a game of American football flying around in the clouds.
As the trio google telekinesis, levitate lego pieces to create a model of the Seattle Space Needle and play practical jokes on kids in a toy store, you really start to like these guys. They are fun, honest and seemingly harmless. But, as the story progresses, Detmer becomes increasingly unhinged, resulting in carnage during Chronicle’s last thirty minutes. This finale is the least entertaining and most cliche part of the movie. It is the only element that lets Chronicle down. In these final scenes the use of home cameras and CCTV to tell the story becomes tenuous and Chronicle slips into the territory of average disaster movies. This style jars with the creativity of Chronicle’s earlier style.
What it lacks in the originality of its topic, Chronicle makes up for in style. Chronicle is both a welcome antidote to the influx of intense films in town for Oscar season and, with some moments of real genius is well worthy of an audience. With a more original ending, Chronicle would have been a revelation in the superpower genre.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
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