Movie Review: Chronicle (2011)
I’m usually not a fan of pretend home-made video movies shot with hand-held cameras that are supposedly pieced together from “found footage”. I find the concept gimmicky, contrived and overdone, and most of all the constant shaking makes me nauseas.
Accordingly, while it might not say a whole lot, Chronicle may very well be the best film of this type that I have ever seen. Surprisingly and unexpectedly, I should add.
The premise of Chronicle is simple. Seattle teenager Andrew starts filming his life. His mother is dying of cancer and his dad is an alcoholic. Life is not much fun for him – until, of course, a discovery (which is never fully explained) which gives him, his cousin Matt and his friend Steve, totally freaking awesome superpowers.
I won’t go too much into what kind of powers they are but if you’ve ever played the game Infamous on the PS3 then you’ll have a bit of an idea. In fact, I’m pretty sure that game had at least a bit of an influence on this film.
Anyway, as Andrew and his friends learn to harness their powers and become more and more powerful, things inevitably start to get out of hand.
What I particularly liked about the film, apart from the fact that it’s damn entertaining, is that it’s not about superheroes. It’s not about making the world a better place or saving it. There’s none of that “with great power comes great responsibility” crap. These are immature teenage kids who suddenly find out they can rule the world – what do you think they would do? What do you think you would do? If anything, this is a film about the corruptive nature of inheriting too much power for one’s own good.
The film works because it doesn’t try to be “big”. For the most part, it operates within the confines of the teenagers’ lives and the issues accompanied by their daily problems, such as bullying, rebellion, girls, popularity, and so forth. This gives the story a more personal feel and makes it more relatable to viewers.
The short 83-minute running time is another plus, keeping the story progression tight and compact. There are very few “time fillers” in this movie, unlike say all the films in the Paranormal Activity franchise. An extra 20 minutes could have completely ruined this movie, so kudos to debut director Josh Trank for knowing when enough is enough.
The actors are largely unknowns (I had never seen any of them) but they give natural performances. Good enough to pass the “home video” test, anyway.
The real stars are the special effects, which are essentially seamless and added an additional layer of realism to the film. The stuff the kids do in the film is incredible, but never did I feel like I was watching digital effects while they were doing them.
As for the nausea, the film made a very clever choice to keep the camera as still as possible (for the most part) and used an ingenious method of justifying it. If you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean.
Chronicle might not be “superb”, but it’s a rare film that manages to make the home video/found footage idea work, and for that I give it…
4 out of 5 stars!