Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Chronicle (2012): Review

Chronicle is a 2012 found-footage sci-fi film. Directed by Josh Trank and starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell (Wasted on the Youth, Almost Kings) and Michael B. Jordan (Red Tails). Although the film is set entirely in Seattle, Washington it was actually filmed in Cape Town, South Africa to reduce the budget.

 Chronicle follows high schoolers Andrew (DeHaan), Matt (Russell) and Steve (Jordan). Andrew is an angst-ridden anti-social teenager who decides to chronicle his life with a video camera and his cousin Matt is trying to help him fit in. Along with Matt's friend Steve, the trio discover a mysterious crater in the earth when they become bored with a local rave and venture inside to discover something not of this world. After the encounter, the trio discover they have acquired the power of telekinesis and set about documenting their powers and the impact they can have on their surroundings. This is soon followed by the ability to fly, and they soon find their powers increasing rapidly. Andrew's troubles at home soon begin to affect his mindset as his father is a drunk and his mother is terminally ill and he starts to abuse his powers , turning into a megalomaniac. As Andrew's rage manifests, he attempts to tear the city apart and it 's down to Matt to confront his cousin in a spectacular climactic fight sequence.

 Chronicle is a fine example of pushing the found-footage sub genre in a new direction and overcoming the restrictions and cliches associated with the format. This is achieved rather cleverly by allowing Andrew to control the handheld camera through his telekinesis and allows for a much wider selection of camera angles than is usually available in a found-footage film. It also helps to appeal to those turned off by the "shaky-cam" style as, for the majority of the film, Andrew is in firm control of the camera and is in fact acting as the director to his own chronicle. In addition to this there is also the added element of other cameramen's perspective such as Matt's girlfriend and, towards the end, a variety of alternate recording devices such as camera phones, CCTV and even helicopter footage. Again this frees the film from the restraints of found footage and allows it to create extraordinary action sequences that film makers wouldn't usually be able to achieve within the sub-genre.

The special effects are also very well done in the film and are blended in a very realistic way essential to the format. Cheap and fake CGI would've stuck out like a sore thumb in a found footage film but the excellent, and very subtle, effects used in Chronicle allow you to suspend your disbelief. You also become immersed in the character's adventures, even when you're watching them play football at aeroplane cruising height. The application of superpowers to ordinary kids creates a real escapism for the viewer as you imagine where you would go if you could fly and what you would do if you had the power of telekinesis. This brings he viewer back to their own school days but also reminds us that when teenagers are given immense power, no good can come of it.

Chronicle is a hugely enjoyable found footage film that reminds us what can be achieved within the format and that there's still life in the old dog yet. It also works extremely well as a superhero (but not necessarily comic book) film grounded in reality and shows there's more that can be done outside of traditional found footage horror genre. The film sometimes veers into far-fetched territory with it's outlandish camera angles but if you can suspend your disbelief and go with it, you'll have a blast!

4 Stars ****

What did you think of Chronicle? Did you like the application of found-footage to a superhero film?


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