HOW do three high schoolers react when they are gifted the heady responsibility of superhero powers?
That is the question director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis concisely pose in this engaging and bold movie.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a greasy haired, weary eyed introvert chronicling his life through a camera (yes, this is another found footage flick).
At home, his mother is bed-ridden and racking up unaffordable medical bills. His father (House of Cards’ Michael Kelly) is a retired fireman who has hit the booze and, when he has had enough of that, hits Andrew.
Unsurprisingly, the camera-wielding outcast finds no refuge at High School. The glum Seattle skies paired with the graininess of his student camera only reinforce Andrews cheerless situation.
That is until one evening when Andrew is led down a mysterious hole in the woods, along with cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and popular high schooler, Steve (Michael B Jordan).
They emerge with newfound powers and soon begin testing them out in the trivial ways you might expect from teenage boys. Levitating legos and supermarket mischief ensues.
But, as established by an earlier reference to the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, this comedic tinge does not last long.
Trank and Landis throw an abrupt – and dark – curve in the road, which builds towards an ambitious finale.
It is all well-designed and compelling enough to see through the lean 89 minute runtime.
Trank also wisely manoeuvres around some of the found footage trappings that have made the subgenre tiresome to many. Different perspectives, including a love-interest vlogger (Ashely Hinshaw) and CCTV cameras, prevent visual stagnation from setting in.
Likewise, the casting and performances deserve recognition. In particular, Jordan, who demonstrates the likability and swagger he will knock us out with in Creed three years later.
Unfortunately for Trank, his recent chance at a big-money superhero franchise, Fantastic Four (2015), brought him back down to earth with a thud. Meanwhile, Landis’ best work since has been his brilliant YouTube short Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling.
With hindsight, Chronicle works as an allegory for gun control in America (the Sandy Hook tragedy occurred ten months after the movie’s release).
It demonstrates the danger of allowing potentially lethal powers to fall into the hands of those who do not necessarily have the maturity, support or mental stability to handle them.
Discussion-provoking stuff. Not bad for an unashamedly low-budget pursuit (it overachieved massively at the box-office).
Chronicle is a movie well worth visiting – or revisiting – in these difficult and dangerous times.
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Chronicle – 4/5
Dire: Josh Trank
Scre: Josh Trank and Max Landis
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hindsaw