Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Chronicle ★ ★ ★ ★1/2

Release Dates:  Australia 2nd Feb   USA:  3rd Feb    UK: 1st Feb   Other Countries

Super powers meet super filmmakers 

Teen angst is a commonly explored theme in film.  Those tricky years are fraught with sexual, emotional and self-worth issues.  Over the past year, a few films of this ilk spring to mind, Gus Van Sant’s RESTLESS, SUBMARINE, and NEVER LET ME GO.  In general, they remain flawed and tedious, suffering from slow pacing and long scenes of distance staring.  Often I think, “These characters are brats and need a good walloping and so does the Director’’.
In CHRONICLE, first time feature film director, Josh Trank, and his co-writer, Max Landis (son of Director John Landis) explore the teenage condition but with a fun and visually exciting twist. 
Using the hand-held camera point of view (think CLOVERFIELD), via the main character Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), we follow him and his friends Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), and Steve Montgomery’s (Michael B. Jordan) after they happen upon an alien object in the woods.  Cutting from the discovery scene, the next shot is of them developing telekinetic powers and from here the film, literally takes off.
Their powers grow the more they use them and pretty soon they move on from suspending Lego blocks in the air to moving cars, eventually developing powers which would find them starring in any Superhero film.
Part of the fun of CHRONICLE is the camcorder view, as Andrew meticulously records their experience.  It’s the boys’ natural behaviour towards the camera that provides refreshing humour as they record their initially playful and exuberant reactions to their growing powers.
Trank comments, “We live in a world where you can film anything you want to, at any time.”  Producer Adam Schroeder adds, “There is an emerging aesthetic from this generation.  Josh’s work in CHRONICLE is the next step in that kind of storytelling.  We’ve seen movies that have made extensive use of someone’s point of view and hand-held cameras, but never in the way we use the camera here. It’s more than a device to tell a story; it’s a character, or an extension of our lead character.” 
The film works well for more reasons than the very cool special effects and nifty camera work. Beneath the action, Andrew’s emotional turmoil in dealing with his dying Mother and alcoholic abusive Father provide a depth to the characters, these types of movies tend to gloss over in favour of action. 
A loner, Andrew is the brunt of bullying and unacceptance by his peers, his emotional fragility never far from the surface.  Thus his need to record his life and this experience is a credible set up for the film’s chronicling premise. In other teenage angst films this character would end up slamming doors and shouting.  Throw super powers on super hormones and let’s make that slamming buildings and creating storms.
CHRONICLE is clever, witty and the most fun you will have at the cinema watching teenagers discover themselves.  Reportedly budgeted at $15 million to make and with the tagline “What are you capable of?”, it really begs the question; if these young filmmakers can deliver such good entertainment as CHRONICLE, of what are they capable in the future?  That’s almost as exciting for film fans as discovering you can fly.