Review: CHRONICLE (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Review: CHRONICLE (2012)

RATING: 3.5/5

Found-footage genre has already fast becoming a fading gimmick, even though many Hollywood filmmakers are still milking the trend since it's cheap to make and it's often profitable (e.g. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY series). But not so for CHRONICLE -- a unique and exciting blend of found-footage concept mixes with superhero genre. Yup, how come nobody thought of that earlier?

The movie begins with Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a teenage outcast who just bought a camcorder and determines to film everything as his personal diaries. At home, he lives unhappily with his abusive father (Michael Kelly) while his mother (Bo Petesen) is dying on the bed. Apart from his camcorder as his "close friend", the other friend he has is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), who always kind enough to drive him to school and invites him to parties.

One night when Andrew is sulking alone outside the party, Matt and his friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) persuades him to come along for checking out a mysterious hole located in the nearby woods. They end up climbing down the hole and discover some sort of glowing cosmic energy that subsequently give them the ability to move and manipulate objects with their minds.

It doesn't take long before all three of them are happily embracing their newfound superpowers and begin toying around (e.g. controlling the movement of a baseball, levitate Legos or mess up someone's parked car at Wal-Mart). As they frequently use their superpowers, they find themselves getting stronger at each passing moments. Soon they learn how to fly, and hope they can travel around the world with ease. However things subsequently goes out of hand when Andrew starts to lose control of his superpowers.

No doubt both director Josh Trank (who previously helmed a few episodes in the short-lived TV series called The Kill Point) and writer Max Landis (yup, he's the son of the legendary John Landis) knows well how to have fun with the genre mishmash, while successfully raises an all-important question that makes this movie so compulsively watchable: What happens if someone granted a superpower but ends up abusing it for the wrong reason? It also helps when Landis's screenplay offers considerable logic that makes this superhero genre all the more involving.

Despite its low-budget standard, the visual effects here are mostly innovative and quite convincing. It's obvious that Trank is an ambitious visual stylist who knows how to present some stunning creative flair -- e.g. a scene where the three teenagers fool around atop the sky 30,000 feet above while playing football. But it is the all-hell-breaks-loose finale that matters the most -- a spectacular showdown between Andrew, Matt and the police force at the city of Seattle (which is actually shot convincingly as a stand-in in South Africa).

The shaky-cam format are also well-employed here, with minimum wobble especially when the story offers a solid excuse to showcase Andrew develops some fancy camera moves with his mind trick. Furthermore, it's nice to see this movie also avoids the pitfall of showing many unnecessary stretches often plagued in most found-footage genres with effective use of frequent jump cuts.

All the young casts are excellent, but it is Dane DeHaan who steals the limelight as Andrew where he delivers a tour de force performance that will make him one of the most sought-after young actors in the coming future.

While some scenes are spotty in parts and particularly a few irrelevant scenes involving surveillance footage pops up out of nowhere, CHRONICLE remains one of the best found-footage genre movies with fantastical elements ever made since CLOVERFIELD (2008) and DISTRICT 9 (2009).

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