Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: Chronicle (2012)

“Listen to me, we can't screw around with this it's too dangerous.”

Director: Josh Trank
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B Jordan
Writer: Max Landis

It’s hard for me to get too excited about super hero movies these days. Sure I’m looking forward to The Dark Knight Rises, but I can’t help feel a little burnt out on it all. This is a bad thing considering I work at a comic book store. Fact is it’s been a while since I’ve truly been wowed by a superhero premise in films. Off the top of my mind I would say the last time this happened was with the movie Unbreakable. Well it seems it’s time to be wowed once more with Chronicle.

Truly the power of the movie is in its story and its unique way of filming. I’ve heard people call this a found footage film but it’s far from it. It’s not so much found footage as a movie which weaves a story through the use of the filming eye. We have two characters that are filming the events, along with footage from security cameras, news reports and other sources. By using the unique perspective but getting away from the trappings of the found footage film, Chronicle is able to breathe life into this filming convention and really raise the bar for other movies to come.

The story is also very strong. Simple, yet detailed to create significant meaning. Equal parts tragic and funny, this is one of the best origin stories around. At the end of the movie, there is room for sequels, but it doesn’t feel cheap. This is a very satisfying first chapter in a bigger story. If they were to never make another movie, I would be happy enough. At its heart are characters that are fully fleshed out, and create an interesting journey into the beginning of being hero’s and villains. There are things to learn from this movie, but it’s never forced down your throat.

Of course one of the major problems with films that go for a found footage feel is the actors. Because the movie is trying to make you believe in the characters, they can’t really use known actors. This can lead to some god awful performances as the film has gone for unknowns, rather than talent. Chronicle strikes a wonderful balance with having great actors, but getting ones relatively new to their career so they have the experience and acclaim in some circles, but won’t be recognised by the average movie goer. In the case of this film it’s all about the trio of teens who find power, as other actors are more dressing for their emotional core.

Dane DeHaan is the centre of the story, as the bullied and abused teen Andrew. The one who embraces his powers the most; he’s also the most damaged and is the one who ultimately has to face his demons. For all the darkness in the character, he also manages to show the joy of a teenager finding friends and a meaning to his life. Alex Russell plays Matt, cousin to Andrew and someone who’s pulled away from the social circles of school. Ostracising himself he is trying to find a human connection, but thanks to isolation he has trouble. Finally Michael B Jordan plays Steve, the all star of the group. Over achiever, looking to get into politics, social butterfly, his life has purpose, but with the power he finally is given something that gives him a great sense of joy. Fun without worry, freedom with limits. All three represent a perfect trio, and the actors are believable. Every step of the way I was with them, feeling every emotional turn.

Dealing with teens that have super powers, that means there are special effects to be had. Also unlike some found footage movies that try and hide the supernatural/science fiction elements, this movie glorifies it. That being the case sometimes the special effects can seem a little off, for the most part I didn’t really notice but maybe one or two times I was pulled out by the bad CGI, thankfully thanks to the acting and story I was quickly pulled back in.

Honestly I loved this movie, and the more I think about things, the more I realise that this could be one of my favourite movies of the year. It has such a strong story and manages to pack everything in under ninety minutes. Some movies that come off bloated should take note. People need to get to the cinemas. Chronicle is a journey on well trodden road, but it makes everything seem brand new.

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