Director: Josh Trank
Writer: Max Landis
Stars: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan
For a movie I never heard of two months ago and was released in February, Chronicle delivers. The main protagonist is Andrew (Dane DeHaan). He is socially awkward, a loner, lacking in self-esteem, bullied, and comes from a dysfunctional home–his mother bedridden and father an alcoholic former fire fighter on disability. His only friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell)–who in all honesty is only a friend to Andrew because they are family.
Matt convinces Andrew to go to a large rave at an abandoned factory. He quickly leaves to the parking lot after a few altercations with people who didn’t appreciate the fact he was videotaping everything. Later that night Matt and Steve (Michael B. Jordan)–star athlete & frontrunner for class president–find Andrew because they discovered something, and they want Andrew to record it. The something is a hole emitting a sound. They decide–Andrew reluctantly–to investigate the sound and go down the hole. There they find a large crystal formation, the sound increases, the video goes crazy, and the next we know it’s tomorrow. All three have developed telekinesis.
What follows is what you would expect three high school boys would do if they suddenly develop powers: mess with others, blow the skirts up of girls, and generally fool around–not dawn a costume and start fighting crime. As time goes on they become more powerful and begin to clash. Andrew, the protagonist, now becomes the antagonist.
The key strength of the script is how it makes you sympathize with Andrew and understand where he is coming from. Andrew does not become the bad-guy because he is evil, he becomes the bad-guy because he is not loved. When confronted by a physically and psychologically abusive father, how could you not cheer when Andrew uses his power to fight back? When confronted with a mother in pain and in need of medication but having no money to pay for them, can you fault him for accosting the local hoods and taking their money? These are the things Max Landis, the screenwriter, does in order for you to empathize with Andrew.
Chronicle was shot in the found footage style, and for most of the film it works. The first two-thirds of the film is shown from the point of view of either Andrew’s or Casey’s (Ashley Hinshaw) camera–Casey being a vlogger. Later in the climatic fight scene Andrew commandeers bystander’s smart phones, and that presumably explains all the different camera angles. I would have preferred a combination approach of regular camera work intersected with the found footage material. Off on a quick tangent, I was impressed with the costume design. Andrew at the end of the film in his hospital gown and wrapped in gauze & medical tape had a Mum-Ra from Thundercats look I hope they were purposely going for.
The acting is solid throughout. Dane DeHaan is the strongest of the three main performances. He makes you always feel for Andrew–both his awkwardness and loneliness. Alex Russell is decent, but is outclassed by Dane at the end of the film. Michael B. Jordan holds his own with Dane, and comes across every bit as charismatic as he needs to be as the big-man on campus. The scene with Dane and Michael during the talent show was a high point for the chemistry between the two.
This is my favorite movie for 2012 so far. If not for the too action packed fight scene at the end of the film, it would have been perfect.
Grade = A-