Review: Chronicle (12A) / Director: Josh Trank / Screenplay: Max Landis / Starring: Dane Dehaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan / Release date: February 1st
Mixing elements from teen, horror, sci-fi and superhero flicks, Max Landis has crafted a strong script that is complimented by great direction from Josh Trank, resulting in a fresh entry into the already crowded 'found footage' genre.
The story revolves around three teenagers who gain super powers from a mysterious source and soon find their lives spinning out of control. Andrew (Dane Dehaan) is struggling with a life filled with abuse and sadness so decides to film everything with a handheld camera, chronicling his existence. The first part of the film is seen through Andrew’s eyes, spanning the high school corridors and teen cliques who bully him on a daily basis. He is an observer and a victim to his alcoholic father’s angry outbursts who is tormented by the fact that his wife is bedridden from illness. Andrew’s character and background are developed well and the domestic abuse scenes are chillingly real. Dane Dehaan moves from an awkward, shy teenager to one bristling with confidence convincingly. His character provides the crux of the film’s turn into darkness and his ability to deliver a strong performance raises the film miles above the many others in the found footage genre.
The teen element of the film is handled well, with Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) both well rounded characters, who at first seem to fit into the usual stereotypes, but as their friendship and powers grow so do their characters. All too often the importance of good characters are overlooked; sometimes for special effects or gore but Landis and Trank have written a script that tells a dark tale of teen angst and misuse of power that still allows for those thrilling moments of spectacle. The witty banter between teenage boys is there but so is the intimacy of a friendship born out a secret.
Rather than focusing on how they came about their powers the film looks into how they harness them - they use their powers to impress and have a bit of fun, as any teenager would. The well-adjusted Matt and Steve encourage Andrew to use his powers as they do, but his dark past means he struggles with how to use his newfound abilities. The initial excitement wears off as they begin to deal with the consequences of their actions.
There are moments of gore, including some bloody teeth pulling and well-placed humour as the friends bond over a series of practical jokes. It’s witty, yet goes to extremely dark places and its sharp observations of teenage strife make it extremely engaging. Andrew’s state of mind as the film progresses is portrayed well through his actions; his sinister downward spiral is depicted with an epic final act that is both terrifying and inventive.
Director Trank moves away from footage solely shot by Andrew in the latter half utilising mobile phones, security tapes and some shots from a female vlogger who acts as a love interest to Matt. Wanting to include some more intimate father and son moments makes the reasoning behind why certain footage is available questionable though. Trank manages to pull this back with a raucous finale that will keep you engrossed. Much is left unexplained at the end of the film, but a satisfying conclusion is still reached.
Overall, Chronicle is a superbly orchestrated and well thought out film that doesn’t rely on special effects to lift it out of the lazy habits of many Hollywood blockbusters. An exciting and refreshing spin on the superhero movie and an extremely promising debut. This writer/director duo has the potential to make an impact on the film world; we can’t wait to see what they come up with next.
Expected rating: 8 out of 10