Monday, February 6, 2012

Movie Review: Chronicle

The "found footage" movement had seemed played out.  Started (arguably) by Cannibal Holocaust in 1980 and kicked into the mainstream by The Blair Witch Project in 1999, this film-making style has gone from an eye-catching way to convey immediacy to the audience to a way to create scares on the cheap.  Chronicle returns the format to its glorious roots.

Set in a contemporary Seattle suburb, Josh Trank's film follows three "friends" (the reality and tenuous nature of their actual relationship factors heavily into the plot) who discover a mysterious hole in the ground, descend into its depths, and come out with telekinetic powers.  Luckily for us, one of them (a creepy Dane DeHaan) has recently decided to start "filming everything" for sad and totally believable reasons.  Most "found footage" films suffer from a simple question that keeps cropping up in the minds of audiences:  "Why don't they just turn the camera off?"  Chronicle smartly gets around this by centering the film around the three boys' simply chronicling (get it?) their discovery and practice of their new powers.  Wouldn't you film yourself building a Lego structure without touching it?  When things start to go bad, it feels natural for DeHaan's cameraman to keep the tape rolling.

The performances are good (DeHaan is joined by Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan), and while some of the writing is a little predictable (the boys' first foray into flight leads to them almost getting hit by a plane) and there's a little too much amateur philosophy that doesn't go anywhere, the mostly playful conversations the protagonists have with each other seem real.  It's the interplay between adolescence and power that is the most interesting part of Chronicle.  Like the "It's a Good Life" episode of The Twilight Zone, Chronicle posits that, if supernatural powers existed, perhaps children (or angsty teenagers) are the LAST people we'd want to have them.

Chronicle:  3.5 stars out of 5

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