Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chronicle Review

Hello, Internet.  I'm going to start off by saying that this review will be peppered with spoilers for the newest found-footage film, Chronicle.  I can't really effectively discuss my thoughts and feelings without going into detail about actual scenes and events.  Some are shown in the trailer, others smartly held back. That said, I really enjoyed this film.  Like, a lot.  I can totally understand why some people wouldn't, but I just don't fall into that category.  Let's get right into it.

Its no secret that I'm a sucker for found-footage films.  Most of the ones that I've seen I've enjoyed on varying levels.  I absolutely adore Cloverfield.  The three Paranormal Activities were quite frightening and entertaining for me.  Troll Hunter is a fantastic film, and needs to be seen by everyone.  Its just so darn good.  I actually dug The Virginity Hit, although pretty much  no one else on Earth saw it. just bleh.  I didn't like it at all.  But that had more to do with the subject matter (and misleading trailer) than the actual style in which it was shot.  Chronicle lands up there with Cloverfield, for me.  It just works on so many levels.

**Full spoilers for Chronicle abound**

Chronicle is a film about three unlikely friends who stumble upon a strange, underground artifact that is pulsing with energy.  Clearly something's up with this object when the main character's (Andrew) video camera starts malfunctioning.  Something pulses out of the object and the three flee from the cavern.  That's the basic set-up.  Next we cut to the boys practicing their new-found telekinetic powers.  I'll admit, its a bit of a jarring cut to go right from them screaming in darkness to a bright, sunny backyard with the three boys laughing and throwing baseballs at one another.  Over the next few days and weeks the trio begin to hone their new talents, getting stronger with every use.  Alex (Matt Garetty) even describes their powers to be akin to a muscle; something that can be strengthened with use over time.  That concept was quite fascinating and intriguing to me.  I had never before thought of a power or ability as something that could be strengthened with use.  Perhaps there are instances of a super-hero gaining new abilities over time, but to have these three boys discover this fact and take advantage of it so soon was refreshing and gave a nice flow to the plot.

The narrative that plays out is quite compelling and enjoyable to watch.  Andrew begins the film by setting up his camera in his room to capture his drunken, abusive father on film.  Andrew's mother has some sort of illness that keeps her essentially bed-ridden, with her care being left to his father (played by everyone's favorite asshole cop from Dawn of the Dead, Michael Kelly) who has given every penny he has to save his wife.  And also to alcohol, apparently.  He's physically and verbally abusive to Andrew, leading him to be a shy and introverted teen in the already-difficult high school years.  His only friend is his cousin, Alex, who can rarely get him to talk about anything personal.  This "origin story" for Andrew is not something we see with a traditional "super hero" film.  Perhaps that's because Alex ultimately becomes the villain of the piece.

Most may see his eventual turn to villain as obvious.  Well, it may have been obvious but I still thought it was quite compelling and entertaining.  The great thing about Chronicle is that you are able to sympathize with and relate to all three of the main characters, but definitely Andrew the most.  His abusive upbringing planted deep-seeded anger - anger that spills out after his father confronts him about buying a video camera when that money should've been spent on his mother's medication.  I can see his father's frustration, as we the viewers never know where Andrew gets the money for not one, but two video cameras over the course of the film.

My absolute favorite aspect of the film is the camera work.  Like most found-footage films, the vast majority of the piece is shot via a hand-held video camera, with the main cast doing most of the shooting.  Questions that arise in every film of this type are present: why would they continue to film in certain situations?  Chronicle does a decent job at setting up why there's a camera everywhere; Andrew is using the camera to not only capture his drunken father and hold him accountable, but he uses the camera as a physical boundary between himself and the world around him.  Perhaps he feels that he can hide behind the lens, without having to fit into society.  And this is actually called out by Alex halfway through the film.   Because of  his telekinetic abilities, at times Andrew controls the camera with his mind, allowing it to float around in the middle of a scene.  This allows for more traditional camera movement akin to a "normal" film.  I absolutely loved some of the shots achieved with this method.  It all just worked for me.

The ending/climax of the film was quite a sight to behold. Andrew's character arc comes full circle after a rage-filled crime spree lands him in the hospital.  His father chastises him for his behavior, blaming his mother's death on him.  Andrew literally explodes the side of the hospital and drops his father to what should be his death.  Alex arrives in time to catch him and thus begins a thrilling, intense battle of flying, telekinetic badasses who wreck quite a bit of property before Alex finally puts down Andrew after a standoff with a few dozen police officers.  Alex is forced to flee, even though he is clearly the "good guy."  One can only imagine what tests and experiments would've been conducted on the boy.

The final scene is touching, poetic, and a perfect cap to this wonderful film.  Again, I can totally see why some people wouldn't enjoy Chronicle.  There are jumps in logic one must take at times, and plenty of hero-style tropes are present.  But none of that hindered my enjoyment of the film.  I feel that there is enough fresh material, at least a fresh approach to said material, for it to be quite an enjoyable experience.

Chronicle is a highly entertaining, thrilling super-hero film that I highly recommend.

The Bearded Bullet is off to think about all the cool stuff he could do with telekinesis...


  1. ill read all of your reviews if they have spoilers this way i dont have to see the films