Chronicle (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 8.5/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 9/10

CHRONICLE (2012) - Josh Trank

"Found footage" is a specific genre of filmmaking in which a substantial part of a film is presented through recordings, often left behind by missing or dead protagonists. The Italian horror film Cannibal Holocaust was the very first film to introduce this style in the year 1980. However, in 1999, The Blair Witch Project made the genre so popular that the term "found footage" is now considered a gimmick. After the impact of Blair Witch, the new decade launched the Spanish [REC] series, the Paranormal Activity series, Cloverfield, and just recently, Apollo 18 and even The Devil Inside. In early February 2012, a "dead zone" for good movies, a small $15 million budget movie called Chronicle comes along. In addition, this is a directorial debut from an incoming director named Josh Trank and stars actors who I have never heard of before. In summary, the storyline is basically first person, but with super heroes. Common sense tells us that Chronicle is, without a doubt, another gimmick that is gonna be undeniably panned. Not quite.

Chronicle centers on hard-life-living Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), and their fellow high school student Steve (Michael B. Jordan), as they form a close bond after receiving telekinetic abilities from a mysterious object. The group at first use their abilities for mischief and personal gain until Andrew, due to teenager angst, begins using his powers for darker purposes. The "found footage" element of the film is primarily shot from Andrew's hand-held camcorder as well as other video recording devices.

At conceptual stage, the story of Chronicle is fresh and original enough to intrigue. The script is tightly written, enhanced with impressive direction and phenomenal performances. Its engagement to the audience helps Chronicle to break free from the chains of "found footage" films. The plot is believable and ties itself into the idea of super powers more closely than ever. As a result, any visual appealing of such special abilities not only intrigues the eye, but also intrigues the mind. Near the end, if one is still thinking about it, the visuals look magnificent for a $15 million budget. The previous time I have had such a surprise was in 2009, when the $30 million budgeted film District 9 was released. Despite a mediocre beginning, Chronicle meticulously offers its own uniqueness and quickly astounds the audience, demanding and earning their attention rightfully so. Chronicle is not just a superhero origin story. It is nearly a Shakespearean drama about a disturbed teenager. With a young, talented cast, Chronicle easily stands out as a believable and original piece.

DeHaan, who bears a similar tone as Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, is the perfect man for Andrew, yet he does sometimes cross the line and enter my region of becoming irritated. He is a realistic character and truly portrays a student experiencing family problems as well as bullying at school. Since the film is mostly presented from his point of view, we can feel his pain as well as his frustrations effortlessly. Yet, as he slowly descends into madness, we are slowly conflicted to back up and observe the bigger picture. One pities him but soon enough becomes afraid of him. In the end, the character is a tragedy, a modern take of a Shakespearean flawed man.

Russell and Jordan, whom I have never seen on screen before, perform in the movie almost as if they are Oscar-worthy professionals. Russell's character, backed up with well-crafted dialogue, delivers the worried cousin who wants to have fun with his abilities yet also cares for his disheartened cousin. Jordan, with clever lines, delivers the high school buddy that almost everyone would wish to have. What amazes me yet annoys me to the point of foaming at the mouth is how young Hollywood these days consists of attractive looking  untalented people, yet suddenly a movie like John Erick Dowdle's Devil or Tranks' Chronicle can come along and fully captivate our minds with unfamiliar faces. After seeing Chronicle, I am truly psyched to see what this talented trio of actors would do next.

In conclusion, Chronicle is breathtaking. It combines superhero luxury with literary sensations. It arrives during a dreadful time of movie releasing, after so many vile "found footage" films, but with a great script and exceptional performances, it stands out. Chronicle does not just stand out as in "the film works as a movie," but it also stands out as an outstanding redefinition of so many aspects of film; a science fiction movie, a super hero movie, and unpredictably, a "found footage" movie.


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