Chronicle * * * *

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Director: Josh Trank.
Screenplay: Max Landis.
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler.

Shaky-cam, found footage film’s have now become the rung on the ladder for budding filmmakers. Hardly a year goes by now, without at least one popping up on our screens. “The Blair Witch Project“, “Cloverfield” and the very successful “Paranormal Activity” are the most notable. This one though, is the most impressive.

Three teenage friends, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell) and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find a hole in the ground, in the middle of the woods. They go down and find a strange illuminated entity. When they emerge, they find that they have telekinetic powers and capabilities. As their great powers grow though, things start to get drastically out of hand.

I’m not a massive fan of superhero movies and quite frankly, I’m a bit tired of seeing them everywhere I look. This film could probably fall into that category but what this has in it’s favour, is a fresh delivery and a real sense of originality.
First off though, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the premise. I found it hard to believe that an awkward, hormone-raging teenager would actually decide to record everything he does on a video camera. To say the least, it stretched credulity. However, the filmmakers are wisely aware of this. They don’t pretend to just pass it off. What they do, is admit to it regularly throughout the early stages of the film. There are constant, self-conscious reminders of people unhappy with it and as result the protagonist takes a bit of a regular beating – but then you would probably do the same if someone had a camera stuck in your face all the time – so the self-conscious aspect pays off enough to keep your disbelief suspended. It even attempts to toss in some philosophical theories that tie-in nicely with the story. This may come across as a bit too ambitious for some but writer Max Landis and director Josh Trank are not arrogant in their delivery. They don’t explain in detail, leaving it wisely up to the intelligence of the audience to notice the references themselves. It’s a clever piece of subtlety that raises this film above the normal standard. One particular mention is of Plato’s allegory of “The Cave” which is entirely fitting for the unravelling of the story. It also explores the different nature in individuals and manages to incorporate a deep sense of ethics. Altruism and Hubris play a big part in the unravelling of the characters and with the level of intelligence and philosophical undercurrent, this is a welcome modern take on the superhero genre.
As the story progresses, the standard shaky-cam approach is gradually abandoned in favour of a
more ambitious style. In keeping with the plot, more inventive and convincing ways are delivered, freeing it from the shackles of it’s particular sub-genre.

A highly creative and ambitious endeavour that has set a benchmark for film’s of this type. It’ll be interesting to see if this style of filmmaking can actually be bettered after this.

Mark Walker

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32 Responses to “Chronicle * * * *”

  1. todayiwatchedamovie Says:

    Glad to see you enjoyed this too!

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  2. I agree so much with you once again. I’m not a general fan of superhero movies, but this one had me. As oppsed to many others I’m not tired of found footage concepts, particularly not when it’s so cleverly made as in this case. I loved this film for so many reasons. There was a moment of cheesiness towards the end that might have been a bit too much, but I finally decided to go for that too.

    What a debut!

    Here’s my shameless plug for my take on it. I know you don’t mind.

    http://thevelvetcafe.wordpress.com/2012/03/06/the-post-where-i-declare-my-love-for-chronicle-and-make-a-revelation/

    Like

    • Yeah, i totally agree! Im not adverse to shakey-cam’s in their entirety but Superhero stuff in particular, I’m a bit peeved with now. This has given me hope though. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

      I’ll check out your “shameless” plug directly. ;-)

      Like

  3. I liked this movie too Mark, but instead of being impressed with what the achieved with the Shaky Cam style, I was actually disappointed they utilized it.

    I realize its probably an outgrowth of budgetary constraints, but I found myself wishing the story that they had could have been shot more traditionally. All the camera excuses got in the way for me.

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    • I can see where you’re coming from Fogs. Shaky-cam’s can be off putting sometimes. I certainly found that to be the case in the beginning but eventually it grew on me and added a more personal experience. If anything, I think the visuals came across all the more shocking and impressive because of it. You’re not really expecting the kind of standard of special effects that this provides.

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  4. Good review Mark. There isn’t much new or different this film is doing or saying but the format works perfectly and gets us inside the heads of these characters through all of the fun and not-so fun moments as well.

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    • Thanks man. I feel the same. It certainly not a new idea but I connected more with the characters than I normally do with these type of film’s. I think it’s release is timely also. In a time where superhero film’s are everywhere, this gives a fresh spin on it – real characters and spandex free. ;-)

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  5. It’s a good little film. Not perfect — like Fogs I found the shaky cam irritating — but good. And it helps that it blends a couple genres — superpowers and coming of age — in a way that sets it a bit apart.

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  6. A very well-written defense of the film (as usual). I really didn’t respond to this movie. For me it was a fairly original idea that was poorly executed. The found footage gimmick has worn on me and I thought the characters were cardboard cutouts of others we have seen numerous times. In fact, I could see where each was going end up early on in the movie. I also thought the ending seemed to come unglued.

    BUT, I am in the minority on this one. More people seem to like it than not so I may have to give it a second view. Great review, once again Mark.

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    • As always it good to here alternative views Keith. I thought it was executed really well. I didn’t expect to but it may have been the surprise element that appealed to me. I see what you mean, it being a bit predictable. One character in particularly kept dropping hints, hence the altruistic and hubristic development of the two leads. I found this worked quite well though.

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  7. I’m no fan of found footage as a rule, but this does look like a good one. I saw a great little found footage horror today: V/H/S. Definitely worth checking out when it’s released

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  8. Nice to see you liked this as well. I really enjoyed it and it was way better than I initially expected.

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  9. NIce review sir.

    I enjoyed this when I saw it a while back. I thought it was an interesting take on the whole found footage genre. Something didn’t’ click with me to love it though. I don’t know what, maybe it was the group of kids throwing pop corn and generally being annoying that done it!!

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  10. Great review Mark! I’m not a fan of shaky-cam/found footage style but I really like this one for the original story. I was quite engrossed in it and I thought the character development was very well done as well. I’m also impressed by the unknown young actors, despite their lack of acting experience, they manage to be engaging emotionally. Glad you agree w/ me on this one :D

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    • Cheers Ruth. Yeah, I was very pleasantly surprised with this one. I only watched it because there was nothing else available but I’m so glad I did. Otherwise, this might have passed me by. Like you say, I thought the development was impressive and the young actors handled it brilliantly. I found this to be quite a treat.

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  11. Great review, Mark! I liked this one too; it’s a great example of what can be done with “found footage”. The ending was awful, though.

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    • The ending was a bit of a stinker but by that point I was already taken aback and didn’t mind too much. I didn’t expect to like it at all and the fact that I got loads of enjoyment, I was quite forgiving of it’s faults.

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  12. As always, EXCELLENT writing. You are one of the better of all of the people I read.

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  13. Excellent review Mark. Hope I actually finally get around to this at some stage!

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    • Cheers Zoe! I had actually forgotten all about this film until I seen your comment there. My writing was a little scratchy but overall, I thought the film was surprisingly goo.

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      • Man, I like to see how sites have grown, your is no exception! I enjoyed the read!

        I hope to see it soon, then I will be able to share more on it!

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      • Yeah, it’s great to see how people’s approach changes over the years. I think my writing has changed a lot since then. There are some old reviews that I read and feel embarrassed about but I’ll amend them eventually. ;)

        I think there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy this one, Zoe. Let me know how you get on.

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      • It definitely has changed a lot, as well as how you approach the movies. Oh, I can totally understand that, there are some I also want to go back to and just fix up a bit!

        Will do!

        PS: Taxi Driver… did it make your top ten cut eventually?

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      • Ha! Yes, Taxi Driver will make my cut, I believe. I’ve not amended my list yet, though, so I’ve still to decide where it slots in. It is in there, though.

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      • :D Yay!!

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