In Chronicle, Josh Trank’s (who’s previously worked on TV’s “The Kill Point”) theatrical debut, we learn that, much like how it is with young love, when high school students are confronted with superpowers, things can quickly escalate from skipping stones and playing aeronautical football to committing crimes of passion and bouts of melodrama. Yet, despite the nuanced characters, what stuck most with this lost-footage drama is that, unlike others that have utilized the gimmick (*cough* The Devil Inside” *cough*), it concludes on a satisfying note, rather than leaving its audience with a crass cliffhanger. That’s not to cut right to the end; the journey’s just as epic.
Starting innocently enough, we’re introduced to Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a
closeted outsider raised by an abusive dad (Michael Kelly) and sickly mother (Bo
Petersen); Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), the former’s cousin and designated driver;
and, lastly, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordon), a jock and prospective
politician. During a party thrown by the graduating class of 2012, the trio stumbles onto a crystallized mass that bestows them the power to lift, throw, and crush things telekinetically. Disappointingly enough, the object’s origin is never disclosed as Max Landis’ screenplay delves into “what if” rather than “how” this group of teenagers acquired such strength.
Hotfooting on a brief 83 minutes, Chronicle is served with the bare essentials. In retrospect, the lack of explanation is a let-down, but it’s hardly noticeable while watching the film. Save for an aimless romance between Matt and Casey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw), the pretty photographer and school blogger, there aren’t many superfluous moments. Furthermore, although Landis and Trank sprinkle in Hollywood clichés — namely during the climax — you can’t help but forgive the characters, whom, realistically, when thrust into this fantastical world, would have to rely on action movies for guidance.
The three leads are charismatic and believable. Despite being in their early 20s, the actors reclaim their glory days nicely, avoiding one major problem most movies about high school students have: Performers who don’t look or sound like they’re still in it. Admittedly, there are slight kinks to their work, but, with poised screen presences and magnetic portrayals of vengeance and power, these freshman thespians work excellently as an ensemble — exactly what the script demanded of them.
Apart from the writing, the effects always teeter on undistinguished and astonishing. It’s ironic that the simpler the situations are, the wonkier the CGI is: Watching LEGO pieces stack themselves struck me as cheap stop-motion, however, seeing the heroes narrowly escape overflying airplanes and crash through skyscrapers was a pulse-pounding experience. Nevertheless, visually, Trank succeeds in fleshing out his camcorder aesthetic. He uses Andrew’s power to have the camera float and create 360-action and overhead angles (with incredibly steady aim nonetheless). This negates the dullness of a prolonged point-of-view shot. And, thanks to the film’s brevity, it’s a stratagem that isn’t overdone or nauseating.
But I’m interested to know: What would you do if you had superpowers? Seek revenge? Rob a few storefronts? Show-off? After seeing Chronicle, I’m convinced I’d do everything but trust the kid with a mean mug and the camera.