(Written for The National Student)
Following in the increasingly popular format of found-footage film-making, Josh Trank’s science fiction film Chronicle follows the narrative of friends Andrew, Steve and Matt from Seattle who, after discovering a strange hole in the middle of a field, gains powerful superhuman abilities which they use to create mischief and increase their High School reputation. However when one of them begins to use his powers for darker purposes, they soon begin to realise that what started off as fun has since turned into something dangerous.
Using the traditional lonely person theme, Chronicle provides a modern take on a concept that has been used to death in film production. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is an unhappy boy abused by his father, and struck with unacknowledged guilt of his dying mother. At school he is the bully target, and relies only on his relationship with Cousin Matt (Alex Russell) as company. Andrew’s struggle with life is seen through the eyes of his lens camera, which he uses to videotape his day-to-day life.
One night while attending a local rave, Andrew is approached by Steve (Michael B. Jordan), the school’s popular star quarterback. After telling him that he and Matt have found something strange, the three enter a large hole in the middle of the ground where they discover a large, glowing, crystalline object which causes the teenagers noses to profusely bleed, while also experiencing great pain. From this point on Chronicle unveils the superhuman abilities the friends have developed from their experience, which after building a greater strength and understanding of the powers leads to devastating consequences, which spiral out of control.
Even though many cinema-goers are over the glitches the found-footage presentation provides, the use of this technique here does not work well. Trank’s decision to use a video camera to document the film doesn’t provide a strong explanation to the viewer. There is no clarification about why the teenage boy would document his entire life through the eyes of a camera. Furthermore Chronicle does not let the camera blend in, instead using constant references in its script to find an excuse to why Andrew has the camera in every scene.
At only 83 minutes, this modern take on the superhero genre provides little in the way of viewing entertainment during the first hour, only after starting to pick up. Some parts of the film seem unrealistic, unpicking the seriousness this film struggles to hold in places. However Chronicle is a rare film that isn’t predictable and provides a fresh, exciting and memorable action-packed climax that genuinely takes your breath away.
Watch the trailer for Chronicle below: