Directed by Josh Trank.
Starring Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell and Michael Kelly.
Three high school friends – Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Steve (Michael B. Jordan), and Matt (Alex Russell) – stumble upon a mysterious underground cavern that holds an object with the capability to reward them with telepathic power. What starts out as an innocent novelty begins to spiral out of control as Andrew, the most gifted of the three, is consumed by this reward.
Chronicle is one of the best ‘super’ films that I’ve ever seen. The characters are fantastic and believable, the story is unique, original and paced to perfection, and uses the ‘real world’ filming techniques and perspectives to transcend your expectations of the well-worn ‘found-footage’ genre. And I must say this is not a found-footage film. After the plethora of said films that have invaded your cinema of late, I feel the need to let you know (in the paraphrased words of director Josh Trank) that it’s a deliberate technique to make it more authentic and specific to the teen subjects – who are the most “self–filmed” generation in history.
So if it’s not a found-footage film, then what is Chronicle?
First and foremost it’s about the three main characters – Andrew, Matt and Steve. It’s about how the gravity of a ‘power’ being arbitrarily gifted – without any guidance – would be processed by a trio of teenage boys.
Our protagonist Andrew is a loner and an introvert who’s living in an emotionally traumatic situation. His family are struggling for money, his mother is terminally ill and her health is deteriorating, and his alcoholic father, an ex fireman (injured on the job and unable to work), cares for Andrew’s mother when he isn’t scolding his son. Andrew decides that he should begin documenting his life. There’s a tragic undercurrent pulsating through Andrew, his camera is him providing evidence of his existence. When we’re introduced to him, Andrew’s cousin Matt is his only friend.
Matt’s an outsider in his own way. He’s outgoing, smart (specifically into philosophy) and occupies the fringes of a number of the different high school groups. He’s able to keep in with all the upcoming social gatherings and when he finds out that there’s a rave at an abandoned factory, he decides to drag Andrew along. At this party we meet Steve, the charming, sweet, affable, intelligent class president who sees Andrew sitting outside of the rave after being accosted by an angry guy who caught Andrew’s camera gazing upon his lady. Steve brings Andrew to Matt and they discover a tunnel – a pulsating well in the ground that has all of them intrigued. Their discovery ultimately changes them forever.
Dane DeHaan is wonderful as Andrew. He portrays the sweetness inside of this quite fragile young man who has been weathering all of those challenges, and how that can mutate when he’s imbued with power. It’s a smashing performance – you’re captivated with his ability to evoke his thoughts and emotions rather than speak them. This is a young guy to watch.
Australian Alex Russell’s Matt is the conscience of the trio. Russell plays a strong level head and uses Matt’s pragmatic voice to attempt to guide the boys in the development of their power. Russell is the rock of the film, and it’s a great performance. Michael B. Jordan delivers Steve perfectly as the confident, intelligent, all round nice guy – and the gentle and sweet true friend of Andrew.
There are some really great moments of the boys sharing this surreal experience. Their chemistry is dynamite and Chronicle would not have been half of the film that it is without stellar performance from all three leads.
The script from Max Landis (son of the legendary John Landis) is tight, sharp and perfectly paced. You get time to know the characters before they’re faced with the challenges ahead and let me say, I know that I’ve focused on the characters, but you geeks out there will not be disappointed with the places that this story takes our great trio, nor with the crescendo.
The young auteur behind this piece, director Josh Trank, takes the personal POV of a singular character behind the camera and gives it the personality of the three titular characters first, only to completely unhinge it by capturing the joys of flight, in one of the most memorable flight scenes you’ll ever be spoiled with. He has already been earmarked to work on the reboot of The Fantastic Four and to be honest, I hope he doesn’t. I hope he’s got another auteur project that he wants to spoil us with – quite frankly, Fox would be ecstatic just to have such a young, dynamic talent.
What is Chronicle? It’s the answer to the question that you asked your friends when you’re a kid – what would it be like if super powers were real?
Blake Howard is a writer/site director/podcaster at the castleco-op.com. Follow him on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman.