Review by Dom Gwyther.
Josh Trank’s Chronicle is a strange beast. To call it a sleeper hit seems almost too obvious at this point as the film currently stands atop both the UK and the US box office. For those who have missed the campaign the central premise of the film is to take two apposing cinema trends of the last few years and force them together. Here the superhero film is crossed with the ‘found footage’ idea made famous by Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.
A superpower film might be a more accurate description however as, refreshingly the film’s teenage protagonists do not run straight for the spandex as soon as they discovered their powers. Instead they do what we know in our heart of hearts we’d all do at first; they play. The juvenile antics of Andrew (Dane DaHaan) Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) provide the much needed comedy and lightness of touch missing from the rest of the film.
From the shooting style to the dreary Seattle setting the tone remains dark even throughout the frivolity of a high school party (complete with the now customary red and blue plastic cups). The darker tone owes much to the central character of Andrew. It’s through Andrew’s camera that we view the majority of the action, and although this premise is sometimes stretched a little too thin it does allow a sense of realism which combined with the subtle special effects of the superpowers, provides a new take on the superpower film that has been done in almost every variation up till now.
As the film explores Andrews troubled life his slow decent (hinted at strongly in the trailer) is portrayed perfectly by DaHaan. It is this kind of subtle and layered character development that would have been perfect for the Star Wars prequels, to see Anakin turn to the ‘dark side’ in the same way as Andrew would have been far more satisfying.
By the time the film reaches its conclusion Trank has pulled out every possible technique in order to preserve the ‘found footage’ premise using every conceivable camera to provide a new angle on the complicated events. Although the majority of these work, the character of Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) a little too convenient. As a video blogger Casey conveniently films a number of conversations between her and Matt as well as a panicked drive into the city. At times this pushes the premise to breaking point as audiences are taken out of the action simply thinking – ‘why would you film that?’
Chronicle provides a bold, dark and realistic take on a well worn premise and through strong performances from the entire cast as well as a lingering unexplained mystery is sure to secure its place as a cult hit.
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