By: Addison Wylie
It may be their first stab at a feature film but with their debut, Chronicle, I’m convinced that Josh Trank and Max Landis are two guys who have a bright future ahead of them. This isn’t a premature, quick-to-the-draw feeling but a solidified and excited statement.
Chronicle is the latest found footage entry but although the filmmaking method feels familiar, it’s how it’s executed that leaves an impact. The story is told from the perspective of troubled and bullied teen Andrew Detmer, played by Dane DeHaan. When the camera first turns on, we’re introduced to the rough living conditions Andrew is subjected to. His mother is very sick and his father, frustrated at the cards dealt, takes his anger out on alcohol and his son. We’re never directly told as to why Andrew decides to record his life but it’s heavily hinted that he wants to record these violent incidents as well as the monotonous activity that is his life.
Andrew turns to his cousin Matt, played by Alex Russell, for friendship. Even though Andrew’s aware that Matt thinks his decision to tape everyday life is weird and jarring, he’s also aware that his relationship to Matt is the closest thing he can call a friendship.
One night at a party, Matt along with his friend Steve, played by Michael B. Jordan, find a noise-omitting cavern in the middle of the woods. Matt and Steve excitedly and drunkenly invite Andrew and his camera to come spelunking. Inside the cave, the boys find an odd, glowing shape. A shape that causes Andrew’s camera to fritz a lot, therefore, some of the evidence as to why this orb gives them super powers is lost.
Throughout the film, information regarding this mysterious orb is sparse but Screenwriter Landis has done this on purpose for us to utilize our imaginations to fill in the blanks. Perhaps, Landis has more mythology planned for a potential sequel or a graphic novel. By the way Landis writes his script, I wouldn’t mind burning the extra calories to find out more about the fantastical history. However, I do wish Landis explained more about a certain romance between Matt and local blogger Casey, played by Ashley Hinshaw. It’s the only element in his script that feels underdeveloped.
We see our three protagonists test out their new powers and pull pranks on unsuspecting bystanders using telekinesis. However, the three also see how their new powers can be used for evil and revenge; notably Andrew. Instead of using his powers for defence, Andrew decides that getting even with his enemies may be the only way for redemption.
Landis and Trank do a good job staying within the conventions of a found footage film but they do a greater job with seeing how far they can bend those guidelines. For instance, we all know with these found footage films, the narrative is taken from a first person view from its lead character. However, since Andrew has telekinetic powers, he uses this ability to make his camera levitate and pan around environments. This style of filmmaking has now opened the opportunity for Cinematographer Matthew Jensen to think way outside the box in regards to creative camera movements. It goes to show that if you open the horizons for crew manning your equipment, the outcomes are filled with energy and perfection.
Another cool technique that is respected but expanded on is the amount of cameras used. Again, with these movies, we’re used to the perspective staying to one camera. If other cameras are used, they are locked off with little to no motion. Here, Landis and Trank have allowed other cameras to be involved. When a climactic fight breaks out in Seattle, everyone in the area captures it on their iPads, iPhones, or other android devices. This means, we see the movie from these points of view letting the filmmakers cut from different angles and take a more traditional approach to storytelling. It’s ingenious stuff.
By the end of the movie, my eyes were dry as a desert. It felt like I hadn’t blinked during the duration of the film. It’s absolutely absorbing and it has you glued at all times. The actors do a great job and even though the characters and the story are dealing with super natural material, their performances always feel natural. The action scenes are well designed as well, with only a few instances of obvious special effects and green screen usage.
With the recent release of one of the worst found footage films ever made (cough The Devil Inside cough), I really hope Chronicle doesn’t get lumped in as just another found footage attempt. It’s not only one of the best executions of a film in this genre but it’s also one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen in recent memory.