Sunday, February 12, 2012

Review - Chronicle

A found footage film that chronicles three high school teens who develop the power of telekinesis after a brief encounter with an foreign object buried in the woods.

Our teenage years can be awkward. Not just the hormones and the changes our bodies are going through but the whole aspect of teen identity. That question we all ask ourselves, who am I and where do I fit in? For some, this part of life may come a little easier than others, but regardless we all go through it. "Chronicle" takes a interesting look at the question by focusing on three high school teens who form a friendship after gaining the power of telekinesis. Much like any friendship, these three share something that brought them closer. The nucleus could have been anything from sports to video games, but using telekinesis allowed screenwriter Max Landis to build a fascinating exploration through the bonds of friendship and the angst of our youth.

"Chronicle" is a found footage film and it mainly does an able job with the confines of the genre. There are a few moments that the audience must suspend disbelief and reasoning to stay in the story but overall director Josh Tank created one of the better found footage films of late. The set up as to why this Chronicle is a found footage film is immediately engaging. The audience is introduced to Andrew, our main character, who has begun chronicling his existence at home due to an alcoholic and abusive father. Andrew's recording then morphs into something else once he and two others come in contact with a foreign object in the woods. Director Josh Tank could have very easily strayed away from the boundaries within the found footage genre but instead he used the powers Andrew, Matt and Steve gain to enhance the found footage angle. Andrew begins to learn how to handle his camera without keeping his hands on it. Andrew is able to essentially create an invisible cameraman to chronicle the powers he and his friends have gained. This trick alleviates a number of restrictions you'd expect in a found footage movie as well as adding some fun angles from cinematographer Matthew Jensen.

Back to friendship for a moment, "Chronicle" is at its best when the audience is watching the trio become a close-knit group of friends. Friendship is a important aspect in our lives. Sharing something we enjoy with another person (or a group of people) can be a very enriching experience and thankfully Chronicle is wise not to skimp on illustrating that. It knows when to have fun, it knows when to give us some thrills, and it knows when to be genuine. Their powers obviously add to the enjoyment of watching the three teens form a bond but Max Landis' script and Josh Tank's direction both wisely elevate the concept from just being a gimmick. Meaning, Chronicle has a solid coming of age friendship behind the super powers and found footage boundaries.

It helps that actors Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan deliver decent performances as the friends with newly acquired powers. When the boys are together testing out their powers, the audience is having just as good of a time as the actors appear to be on screen. The flying sequences are thrilling, as are some of the other tricks the guys learn/show-off, but it is the more natural moments that really carry weight. Like eating Pringles at lunch or the group goofing off in a store. It reminded me of times I'd spent messing around with friends; being goofy, causing a ruckus, and just having a good time (maybe) at the expensive of others. The one area the actors do show off their weaknesses comes with arguments and meltdowns structured into the third act. Especially Dane DeHaan and Alex Russell, the word over-acting comes to mind. Unfortunately, the boys show they do not have the same level of authenticity in the more dramatic scenes as they displayed as typical teens.

"Chronicle" has a tremendous build, but where it is building towards, is not so tremendous. The third act is not bad, but it is recycled and feels simply too obvious. There is a whole lot of potential within the story, yet screenwriter Max Landis allowed himself to go down the familiar path we've seen in so many other forms. Outside of the direction of the third act, I did find the finale to be well executed with some rousing special-effects. It has a number of eye-rolling moments and things feel a bit tacked on in points but, it still managed to provide fulfillment and thrills.

"Chronicle" is a found footage movie that excels at the bonds of friendship. Like so many other coming of age stories, at its core it has a memorable story about people who found something that they could share and experience together. It falters a bit allowing the teen angst to outweigh the friendship, however its outcome can be defended as a natural outcome and it is easily a film I would watch again and again. Finally, director Josh Trank deserves some credit for doing a clever job of playing with the found footage genre as well as staying within its parameters.