Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2004 9:05 am
I know I'm writing this review long before I have had the chance to truly process Chronicle and that's probably ok. As a fan of SF, it has been anything but a bleak few years for the genre. District 9, Inception, and last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes gave me the chance to feel stimulated by what I was watching and to walk out thinking about the ideas at play. Chronicle is the latest in that line and manages to bring uncommon intelligence not only to the SF genre but to the oft mishandled teen movie. This is a bracing look at the alienation teens often feel that Hollywood sometimes seems utterly tone deaf on.
The film begins with central character Andrew (Dane DeHaan) setting up his camera to catch his abusive father (Michael Kelly) in the act. Andrew is a social outcast which the movie convincingly sells. Invited to a party by his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) he reacts exactly how I would have at that age by mocking the idea of parties. Matt, unlike Andrew, is highly adept at socializing and is constantly spouting elementary philosophy just like a lot of my friends did at that age. And do now. The cousins find themselves leaving the party to follow the budding politician Steve (Michael B. Jordan) into a hole where a strange object bathes them in radiation. Then the camera shorts out.
When the camera cuts back in, time has passed and the teens have telekinetic abilities. Here is where I feel obligated to stop talking. Things will get better for Andrew as a result of his new powers but they aren't fated to stay better. Characters who in a lesser film would be pathetically one note prove complex. The definition of hero and the meaning of good and evil are dealt with at length and the film takes a very shade of gray perspective.
What I can talk about is the work done here. Director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis are talented men. Working with the found footage concept, Trank does a great job of finding unique approaches. Security cameras, police cameras, a camera wielded by Matt's love interest (Ashley Hinshaw) all provide intriguing angles to view the footage by. A key scene does stretch the concept a bit far but oh well. Trank also knows how to use effects. This wasn't a pricey film but it looks like a very expensive one in several awe inspiring moments. In fact that might be the biggest strength he brings: he knows how to convey awe. Landis' script gives him the chance to with well crafted characters. Landis crafts (with co-story credit shared with Trank) an engaging situation then plays it all t0o honestly. And man, the dialogue. It's really a fun film to listen to.
The cast is another massive plus. DeHaan is a powerful presence here, conveying a sympathetic but utterly unnerving figure. When things go awry for him, he pulls off the transition and makes it feel right. I cannot fathom this being the last film I see him in. Russell provides a strong performance if in a less showy role as a youth whose life has gone right all the time which blinds him to his cousin's pain. Jordan gets the comic relief role more or less but I really liked him a lot. Kelly, as the abusive father, deserves credit for taking a stereotype and putting a human edge on it. Things are morally complex enough here to see even this convincingly brutal man has some affection.
I'm talking around a lot about this film because it needs to be seen and then discussed. There is real material here worth thinking over. In early February, that's a miracle. This was a great movie when an ok movie would've been perfectly satisfying.
Ninja of the Magnificence is a superb business title, better than assistant manager!