Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan
A pretty unheard movie with no A-listers on its credits list, ‘Chronicle’ is a blend of Hollywood's tried and tested formulas and genres. But director Josh Trank has given the story his own original and compelling spin.
The story and events in the film will immediately bring to mind some impressive moments from classic movies and comic books, but these are merged so perfectly.
It is an intimate story of two cousins Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) and Matt (Alex Russell) and their best friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan).
The plot begins with Andrew starting up his new camcorder to document his troubled upbringing. It thereby also establishes excuse for the camera's presence in every scene. That also explains those wobbly and weird angles and as a result the film oscillates from the normal narration to the first person perspective with the use of a personal camera with grace.
The story becomes interesting when Matt and Steve find a mysterious tunnel while attending a high school party in the woods. They bring Andrew along with his camera to document their exploration. The trio makes their way down into the cave and come across a mystifying discovery. They also start experiencing telekinetic powers.
While the exact origin of power source itself remains unexplained, it doesn't hinder the plot and the lingering question is eventually acknowledged.
Moving on, this mystic power bonds three of them and they continue to film their various experiments and exercises, often to great comedic effect. They soon realise the severity of power within their grasp and Matt lays down rules to be followed.
But then teenagers being teenagers, the heroic honeymoon period doesn't last long. Andrew's past hounds him. He breaks the rules. Cracks quickly appear in their friendship and consequences of his actions increasingly turn dark, dangerous and devastating.
Unfortunately, the tragic progression of Andrew's character is not as engaging or as gradual as it should be.
The result is a superhero movie that works on several levels. These kids aren't searching for truth or justice, they're just trying to get laid, and the film's early scenes are a thrilling celebration of self-discovery, especially when the guys first realise they can fly like Spiderman.
And as the film reaches its final act, the care with which the characters' friendship is developed makes you curious to find out what happens to them. The protagonists are so believable. Their actions, whether good, mischievous or downright nasty, all make logical sense, because their personalities are so well established.
The performances are uniformly excellent. The cast's natural performance complements the sharp script. This ensures you believe what the trio goes through and root for them, which makes 'Chronicle' a film about friendship, as much as it is about superpowers.
Laced with impressive visuals and a high impact climax, 'Chronicle' is far from being a gimmick, or an attempt to hop onto a stylistic bandwagon. The idea of presenting the film through its characters' lenses is an intrinsic part of the film's storytelling. There are moments that really wouldn't have worked had they been shot in a traditional Hollywood fashion.
Max Landis' script is smart, sophisticated and full of energy. It features countless clever twists and turns. The teenage banter too has been perfectly observed.
Unlike many mainstream action films, 'Chronicle' works because it's an intelligently written drama first, and an explosive spectacle second.