|chronicle||3 out of 3 users found this review helpful.|
"I am apex predator."
Soon, we’re going to have to reconfigure our classification of films that utilize cameras being operated by its characters. Sure, the implication is that the footage is in fact found, most of the time, but then that just rakes in the semantics of editing, finding of footage, and so forth. Chronicle managed to break this found footage genre. It is a dark practice in visual creativity used as a factor in borderline brilliant storytelling. Helmed by newcomers, this shocker of a film not only combines genre, but melds in the idea of fun we come to expect from blockbusters with actually well executed character development and story progression. This is also thanks to the strong performances of the three leads, who manage to pull-off some of the more believable high school performances I’ve seen in the most recent of years. Captured by some of the most eye-opening and creative cinematography, in terms of looks and playing into the story, this tale of heroes and villains with true hearts and minds is a pleaser, through and through. Damn near everything in this film is well done and/or clever, and it constantly surprises as it progresses. As somewhat of an experiment in multiple areas, Chronicle is a success, from the littlest details to the biggest set-pieces, both of which will satisfy you to bits.
The life and times of one Andrew Detmer are not of happy origins. His mother on her deathbed and his father on his 4 bottle of insert alcohol here, Andrew has decided to start filming everything. The thing is that Andrew already isn’t the most popular of kids at school- he’s a regular punching bag and mute loner, hood down, always in his own thoughts and world. The sudden introduction of a camera only makes matters worse, almost literally painting a target on himself for the other students to see. This also is a negative for Andrew’s cousin, Matt, the vaguely popular nice guy who isn’t the most proud of his past. Matt tries to bring Andrew out of his shell by going to a rave, where Andrew still brings his camera, and meets Steve, who is universally loved, is running for president of the student body, and is just the coolest. Steve is as nice as he can be to Andrew, even though he’s a bit of a jock type, goofing around, not always to the positive of our camera-toting friend, but he’s kind nonetheless.
Outside the party and in the woods, the friends find something… interesting. Being the curious Casey’s they are, the group decides to investigate. One freak occurrence and three weeks later, our friends have FRIGGIN’ SUPER POWERS. Telekinesis, moderate levels of super strength, and much more are now at their hands. So why not have fun with it, right? Right (kind of.) After some goofing around and working out of their abilities, Andrew accidentally injures and nearly kills someone. With that, the group establishes a set of rules, and their powers only grow stronger, especially that of Andrew, who is entirely and utterly fascinated by his powers. But as a certain model citizen for all once said, “No one man should have all that power.” (Yes, I just quoted Kanye West. Yes, you should keep reading.)
This film, in the broadest of terms, does three things right (adding up to absolutely everything.) One, it tells a high school story that is actually, you know, good, and plausible in most respects, but most impressively, a strong one. I just started and ended that sentence with “one”- fascinating. TWO, it tells a great superhero tale, with every kind of theme and trope intact and intelligent, running at one hundred percent. Finally, it single-handedly destroys all hope for a better found-footage film, by being one of the most ingeniously shot films I have ever seen. Now if that doesn’t scream impressive, then I don’t know what does. How about the fact that this movie uses every single piece of its production value and story construction to build the overall big, bad picture, not taking for granted any aspect? Every piece of the puzzle plays a key part, and they’re very strong in their respective modes. I mean that’s pretty cool, right? Right.
Every day, I imagine how I'd film every second of my life. Every time I walk down a hallway, talk to someone, do something. It's nerdy, creepy, and so much more in terms of what it says about me, but it's true. Chronicle did the best thing that could ever happen, which is give the handle and unattached control of cinematic perspective to the protagonists, who cover their tale and life in the way they wish, as well as what is convenient, or in a praising case, clever beyond all hell. The premise of how this story is covered is so genius in it's own right that it's almost not fair. It gives an excuse to lessen the shake that is oh so familiar to the genre we’re subjected to, so that when it's used, it's effective. When it isn't shaky, it's dreamy like a steady-cam; brooding, reflective, gorgeous, and used in sure, confident fashion. It takes into account the plausibility of what's happening, and still runs with what it's got to the absolute extremes.
As for the straight up reasoning for why it is shot like it is, Chronicle looks to its true protagonist and how he feels. In correlations to themes like keeping distance from the world, but still looking at it through a window, we’re subjected to observational, as well as truly confrontational camera movement and placement. These kinds of movies never really get to work for stylish cinematography, because it’s always on the move. But in Chronicle, we get subdued and smartly sparse style that is not of blind, creative ambition. There’s actual depth and purpose behind the methods, which is pretty fascinating, alongside the fact that each and every angle covered is quite gorgeous. Be it a sheer excuse to get this great coverage and utilize different looks and sounds (or lack of), that’d be fine as well. Using the environment in such a fixed and smart way is welcome at all times. But that the filmmakers went as far as to give context and make it part of the story is just the best kind of icing on an already really good cake.
I still can’t believe that it’s a movie like this that would be the first in recent memory to capture somewhat legitimate high school attitude and life. Sure, it’s still kind of cliché, bullies and preps at all, but for the most part in practice, it is actually fairly accurate, especially with the main characters and their respective personalities. The leads are astoundingly perfect- just perfect. Their naturalism and enthusiasm when insanity occurs is totally genuine, which makes things all the more enjoyable. They’re dumb kids having fun, being excited and incredibly curious about this unnatural thing we always wonder about- we get to experience the fun aspect of the powers together. We learn together, in very grounded and realistic ways. The kids who play Steve and Matt, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan respectively, are too fitting for their roles. They have the demeanors and attitudes they sport down to a pat- it’s natural to an often scary degree, really, maybe with the exception of some scenes involving Matt and a peculiarly out of place love interest. The character of Andrew required a bit more nuance, and totally got it with an excellent performance from one Dane Dehaan. I don’t know if it’s just the way he looks, his absolutely unreal performance as an uncomfortable loner thrust into a new life, or both, but this kid gives Andrew a level of humanity that is so rarely seen these days in characters. His happiness is strong enough to make you cry, just as would his downfalls. You care for him, and seeing him rise, fall, and everything in between is exciting because of that care. This care extends to the other two leads as well, making the entire adventure intense, as the stakes rise higher and higher as they get more and more powerful.
Popular, vaguely popular, and the absolute outcast are archetypes that can easily be over-exaggerated or downplayed, but this film got it right. The relationship between the three is chummy, but insightful concerning their respective statuses in their student-body. As their strength grows, so does their bond, and it’s fascinating watching them connect. Screenwriters Max Landis and Josh Trank instill true humanities into these kids. Some are so emotionally broken that they have to film everything (gee, which one is that?), others are distanced but are still caring, and they all have their personal demons, each of which come in to play at one point or another, making their own marks in the core-friendship. It’s a strangely intelligent way to handle characters, especially of the young variety, but isn’t surprising coming from two young filmmakers who understand the vulnerability that youths, specifically high-schoolers, are more than always prone to.
Despite the flashiness and seemingly action-oriented nature of the film, Chronicle is actually a much smarter film than anyone could expect. Working with a superhero story, Landis and Trank craft a thorough and effective tale that plays with ideas and themes in subtle fashions. The notions of having an upper hand and advantage over others is important, possibly most, and is even more interesting considering WHO gets the power. Times are fun for all, but when it’s time to get personal, the one who is hurt the most will hurt the most. Foreshadowing in the form of visual note or through dialogue is a large component of early on sequences, as is constant showing of character. These keep on establishing how these kids would do in the most dire of moments, which would without a doubt come out of these circumstances. Now some times, little symbols and metaphors are blared a little blatantly, but they still work for being present in the first place, and sticking to whatever guns straight to the end. There’s a confidence to be found in these more minute details, which is satisfying in its own right. Mixing these kinds of depth-charged storytelling with time to be knuckleheads is surprisingly clean, with both fun, as well as plot and character development strong and in check. With the kids being students still, we have the moments in school and at home, equally divided per day, giving us our respective fills of each tone dished out. Even if it isn’t entirely without spots of too much or too little shine, the consistent nature of which Chronicle plays with its story and all that comes with it is high and prideful, as well as smart.
I can say without a doubt that this movie will become a sure-fired classic. And it totally deserves to become so, just because of how good of a film it is, both to standard movie goers and the more analytical viewer. Cool, smart, and exciting is Chronicle, with A+ everything undertow in terms of production, both pre and post. From a pair of young, talented minds came a very creative picture that changed the genre it came flying in on for the world to come. It elevates what the found footage genre can be capable of, where it can go, and challenges superhero films by being one of the better ones out there, despite not coming from a preset property And hell, it’s probably the best modern high school flick I’ve seen to date. It’s a film that sports strong performances and creative visual style, and balances a handful of ideas that normally probably wouldn’t work. With Chronicle, we get an interesting experiment whose results are more than satisfying- they’re somewhat groundbreaking… and super. To hell with it, I had to say it eventually.
Chronicle gets a 5/5, because that’s for how long my eyes were in a fixated, wide open position after the film ended… well if I wanted to be truthful, it’d get a 45/5. Screened, get on it.
Oh, and let me leave you with an awesome song from the film.
What happens when a few asshole teenagers get superpowers instead of the usual self-righteous types? This movie seems like a pretty good indication.
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