Dane DeHaan in 'Chronicle'

Andrew (Dane DeHaan) crushes a car with a flick of his wrist in 'Chronicle' and, no, it's not one of his exes'. Photo courtesy Film Afrika Worldwide

A couple of weeks ago, a seemingly forgettable movie came into theaters and took the box office by storm. Not only that, but through today, February 13th, it has scored a solid 85% on rotten tomatoes. So just what is this movie with a cast that has you saying “who?” more than “oh!”?

It’s not going to win any awards and you’re not going to see it upstage the Oscar favorites in a few weeks (it’s not even eligible since it came out this year, in case you overlooked that fact), but Chronicle is a genuinely entertaining movie in its own right.

The film starts out with our main characters only connected by the slightest of relationships. Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is a quiet teenager with a less-than-perfect home life between a sickly, dying mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. Matt (Alex Russell) is Andrew’s cousin and not in a “we-are-practically-brothers” kind of way. Steve (Michael B. Jordan), is a classmate made popular by his running for class office.

When the three, practically by dumb luck, wander down a small cave-like opening in the forest amidst a barn party they all went to, they discover a strange, supernatural prism. Glowing with the typical alien-ish effects, the structure grows unstable and you’re not quite sure what happened. But when they (and the movie) come to seemingly a few days later, the three of them appear to have the power of telekinesis.

From there the film explores how three unassuming teenagers handle their unexpected gift, and, as one might think, they don’t always see eye to eye on what to do with it with the typical post-puberty drama often getting in the way.

But despite taking place in the way overplayed high school scene, the film is enjoyable to older audiences. If anything, aging the characters as high school teenagers is done with the intent of developing characters that are unable or unsure of how to handle a sudden power/responsibility.

The film’s signature twist is that the entire movie is filmed through the eyes of “real life” video. This is predominately accomplished via a camera Andrew buys but cuts to cameo-like shots from security footage, police dashboard cameras, and several different third-person spectators via camcorders and cell phone cameras of their own.

This increasingly popular cinematography style delivers itself somewhat as a double-edged sword in this film with the beginning feeling particularly dragged out as a result of both the required developing of the plot and the fact that you aren’t entirely sure what is going on (and not in a way that necessarily sparks your curiosity). Needless to say, the limited-view camera angles don’t help this problem early on.

But the film does pick up from there. And when the three main characters eventually gain their superpowers, a lot of the visuals are just downright cool. Even when the special effects take over the bulk of the movie, rarely do you feel caught in an artificial world as many CGI-heavy movies are guilty of. In fact the raw urbanism of much of the film feels inspired from movies like Battle: Los Angeles or Cloverfield.

But perhaps the one thing the movie does perhaps the best is developing a believable story that progresses in a surprisingly (and refreshingly) rational direction once the irrational (I.e. obtaining superpowers)  has already occurred to its characters. The ability to take a larger-than-life premise and turn it into a down-to-earth film is an extremely underrated quality. Nevertheless, the movie does this with much success. Chronicle is a lot like District 9 In this way and, if you liked that movie, you will probably enjoy this one as well.

FINAL GRADE: B+


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