Sunday, February 05, 2012

REVIEW: Chronicle (2012)

I'm definitely not a fan of the Found Footage genre, but at least I can recognise when a director uses it for more than a gimmick and create something special. With Chronicle, first-time director Josh Trank uses every trick in the book, then turns them on their head. And while he's at it defies the entire movie industry by making a $12M movie that looks better than any given Nic Cage blockbuster.

The story centres on friendless loner Andrew, a dead-ringer for a young Leonardo DiCaprio, whose harsh home life is equalled only by the constant bullying he's subjected to in and out of school. Tagging along with his cousin and another school kid leaves them to discover some weird artefact that leaves them with increasing telekinetic ability. What starts out as fun and games to discover their power inevitably turns dark and deadly.

This would definitely be a different movie had it not been for the found footage angle. Many times it distracts and annoys, but director Trank wisely contrasts the genre's limitations as well as it's possibilities.In order to make it work he needs to resort to an outside character who, like Andrew, inexplicably films everything. But soon enough Andrew develops the ability to "levitate" his camera, which allows for a more traditional narrative. Then by the climax, everything called camera is used, from ever present cellphones to traffic cameras, all become part of the storytelling to underline that these "superheroes" live in a much different world than when Superman and Batman first done the tights.

"So wait, who's filming what now?"

Though Superhero is a big word, or at least a genre that gets a much-needed fresh take. Unlike Spiderman, Andrew's new gifts aren't a responsibility but a extension of his impending mental breakdown. Those truly are teenagers who use their powers to prank and "score", and cannot possibly be mature enough to become saviors. At times it feels like putting the X-Men in the harsh reality of a Gus Van Sant movie.There's not a whole lot of development for these characters, but they still feel like someone who lives right around the corner, who have an actual human reaction to their predicament. With some very well placed humor here and there, I should point at.

Even better, the film manages breathtaking superpower sequences without ever reeking of CG. One particular scene has the boys levitating at 20,000 feet and tossing a football around until an airline crashes their party; Michael Bay will have nightmares trying to figure out how Josh Trank made that one look so good on such a skinny budget. Adding to such realism are the actors, especially Dane deHaan as Andrew who does a surprising job of carrying the film on his shoulders, unlike the cardboard cutout who botched the similar hero downfall of Anakin Skywalker... Kudos to Michael B. Jordan (what an unfortunate name...), a kid who cut his teeth with solid work on TV's Parenthood and Lie to Me, and shows here that he deserves a big place on the big screen. 

"It's all in the Cojones."

Overall, Chronicle is a film that I like and respect for it freshness and the vision of a director who not only believes in magic but makes it happen. But it does present a number of flaws and remains one of those rapidly annoying found footage flicks. Definitely recommended, but unlikely that I'll be watching it as often as I did The Dark Knight or Scott Pilgrim.

Final Word: 7.5/10

N.B. The hip-hop song (as also heard in the trailer down here) is called Price Tag by Jessie.

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