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Chronicle by Josh Trank (dir), Max Landis (wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
20th Century Fox  ISBN/ITEM#: B005LAIGPU
Date: 31 May 2012

Links: Movie Trailer / Show Official Info /

When three teenage boys find a glowing object deep inside a cave, strange things begin to happen--and a terrifying power is thrust into their unready hands. The danger grows as they learn the scope of their new abilities, to the point that there is almost nothing they can't do...

Cast:
Dane DeHaan ... Andrew Detmer
Alex Russell ... Matt Garetty
Michael B. Jordan ... Steve Montgomery
Michael Kelly ... Richard Detmer
Ashley Hinshaw ... Casey Letter


In Chronicle, teens Andrew, Matt and Steve are attending a party out in the woods near Seattle. Andrew, a sullen and withdrawn boy, is going only because his popular cousin Matt is making him go; Matt's buddy Steve, a wunderkind destined for great things, is just out to have a good time.

Things go wrong and Andrew flees an embarrassing incident. Matt and Steve follow, only to discover a hole in the ground that leads into a cave. Caught on camera by Andrew's nonstop videotaping, they go down inside... and something happens, something that involves a glowing object. They all wake up some time later, having apparently made it out of the cave, and make their way home.

But that encounter has left them changed. Before long, they find that they have the power of telekinesis, moving objects simply by willpower. The more they use the power, the stronger it grows. They start pulling pranks such as flipping up girls' skirts or moving a teacher's car in the parking lot of their high school. Then Andrew learns how to fly, which sends the three skyward in an exhilarating-yet-terrifying scene in the clouds.

Back on the ground, though, reality intrudes. Andrew's father Richard is an abusive, under-employed firefighter whose wife is dying. He takes his rage out on Andrew at the least provocation, in fits of genuinely scary on-screen violence. Andrew holds back, even when he has the power in his hands to stop his father, but it is only a matter of time before this ticking time bomb goes off.

Meanwhile, Matt tries to work up the courage to talk to his crush Casey, and Steve considers the implications of having this power on a possible career.

When tragedy strikes, however, everything is blown up in a climax that is as mesmerizing as it is brutal.

Dane DeHaan is the breakout of this movie, creating a character in Andrew that is many layered and compelling. He's suffering--he's bullied at home and school alike, with no refuge but his room -- yet he manages rare moments of joy and even exhilaration, such as when he masters the power of flight. But his moods swing to the dark side all too easily, such as when he sends a tailgating truck careening off a highway with a flick of his wrist. He manages the evolution of Andrew in a convincing, confident fashion, and we'll see much more of this young man.

Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan are exactly what the movie needs, by way of providing contrast with Andrew's dark intensity. Russell's Matt is a popular jock who nevertheless has his own challenges and struggles, while Jordan's Steve is a young man with boundless promise, whose compassion proves a dangerous Achilles heel. Both deliver powerhouse performances.

It's fair to say that Michael Kelly portrays the scariest character in the movie, and he doesn't even have powers. His volatile Richard is like nitroglycerin; you know he'll erupt but the moment is always shocking, and the violence he does to Andrew (captured on his nonstop camcorder) is a gut-punch.

Director Josh Trank has found a way to make the "found footage" movie something entirely new and delightful. What could have been pedestrian turns inventive, even whimsical when the camera is guided by Andrew's telekinetic vision. The view starts off as we know found footage to be, solidly in the hands of one character, but once Andrew has the power, the point of view is all over the place, swooping and darting in amazing shots that demonstrate ingenuity and creativity can trump a big effects budget. The way other bits of video are intercut, especially later in the film, add to the power of the format as well.

Not that the effects don't deliver, but Landis has crafted a terrific story of three young men and ways in which power can corrupt (or at least seduce) those who aren't ready for it. The end scene is easily on a par with THE AVENGERS, and for a film that cost around $12 million to make, that's really saying something.

Highly recommended.

Chronicle is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.

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