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Chronicle – review

The only reason I went to see Chronicle was because there really wasn’t anything else out that I wanted to see.  I thought I was going to be in for a high school drama that has some entertainment value to it but very little redeeming qualities.  What I got was one of the more realistic high school dramas I’ve seen in a while, set within the back-drop of a highly entertaining and original science fiction film.

The film stars three teenage guys of various social status.  Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a nerdy introverted teen who gets picked on and ignored at school, Matt is Andrew’s cousin and hangs with the more popular crowd, and Steve (Michael B. Jordan of Friday Night Lights) is the extremely popular sports star and soon to be class president.   Their lives become inexplicably intertwined while attending a rave in the middle of nowhere one night, when Steve and Matt find a gigantic hole in the ground that contains something unworldly.  Steve gets Andrew to take a look at it with them because he has recently started carrying a video camera around with him wherever he goes. (Lucky for us huh?)

We don’t know what it is the boys encounter but it gives them telekinetic powers, and soon they start using those abilities, but much like a muscle they need to strengthen and train their new powers.  We see the boys become best friends, all through the watchful eye of Andrew’s camera that he continues to carry with him at all times.  At first they spend time alone goofing around with their powers, and soon they begin to pull pranks on people at school, or in a toy store.  It’s all harmless fun, but it’s only a matter of time before someone pushes the boundaries and mis-uses that power.  (With great power comes great responsibility remember???)

Andrew, Matt and Steve would never hang out together in high school if it wasn’t for the powers that bind them together.  That’s where the film works at its core.  We are still watching the painful growing pains of those formative teenage years.  Andrew has a hard time fitting in, and his powers could help him at times, and both Steve and Matt could help him as well, but it’s not as easy as it sounds to fit in amongst the cool kids.   Not to mention Andrew has the added pressure of an abusive father at home, and a cancer ridden mother.  Life is hard enough as it is, but Andrew has a lot more pressure on his shoulders then the average teen.

The film begins charmingly enough and begins to take shape along the way as a true science fiction film.  We are watching everything through Andrews camera which he likes to float in the air and have move on its own, which makes for some extremely fluid and interesting shots.  We’ve seen a rash of films like these using this technique, some expertly (Cloverfield) and some soul crushingly bad (Paranormal Activity 2, 3). In all honesty this is the best directed film I’ve seen this year, and first time director Josh Trank should be commended for his outstandingly fresh work.  Dane DeHaan who plays Andrew is also outstanding.  He reminded me of a young Leonardo Dicaprio circa What’s Eating Gilbert Grape era.  He does a great job of going through a whole range of emotions throughout the course of getting, and learning these powers.

I’m more than surprised by Chronicle it really is an interesting take on a high school drama, a science fiction film, and the origins of comic book superhero’s as well.  It’s fresh, and innovative, and well acted and directed.  The only downfall is some mediocre CGI scenes here and there, but that hardly takes away from the fact that this is one hell of a picture.

Grade: B+