Film Review: Chronicle

At 27 and 26 years old, director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis have broken cinematic history, becoming some of the youngest directors and screenwriters to work on a #1 box office film.  What’s more is that their film, Chronicle, proves itself as a unique spin on the superhero genre that is also well-written, well-acted, and engagingly shot.

After a surreal encounter with a glowing crystal object that emits strange pulses of sound, three unlikely friends, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Matt (Alex Russell), and Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find themselves with new telekinetic powers.  The scene of this encounter comes 20 or so minutes into the film and only lasts a few minutes. Rather than devote time to the intricacies of a superhero origin story, the characters’ new powers and our views of them are shaped by their own personal origins, personalities, and backgrounds: Andrew’s being bullied, Steve’s good natured popularity, and Alex’s hidden sensitivity and affection for a girl, Casey (Ashley Hinshaw).  Andrew, in an apparent effort to deal psychologically with his isolation and the abuse suffered at the hands of his alcoholic father, decides to begin filming everything, which creates an easy but effective excuse for the film’s unusual events to be captured on handheld, as well as provides ample opportunity for Trank and cinematographer Matthew Jensen to work in intriguing shots that hint at Andrew’s self-reflection and claustrophobic mental state.

Instead of being driven by superhero antics, the plot is driven by its very human characters, grappling realistically with what suddenly having super powers must cause – excitement, confusion, and turmoil.  Comedic scenes, such as Alex getting pelted with a baseball while trying to halt it mid air, represent convincing takes on what each of us might do if we found ourselves in a similar situation.  In this way, the film feels universal and relatable – as if you’ve just been invited to your neighborhood block party…of superheroes.

Chronicle’s structure is free form, comprised of various vignettes, clips, scenes, and interactions that transition quickly, are abruptly joined together, and each move with pace.  This kind of loose narrative, tight editing, and character driven plot, combined with the film’s cinema verité and handheld cinematography involve the viewer psychologically, almost physically.  The effect is powerful and haunting.  As Andrew spirals out of control, the film becomes increasingly volatile, culminating in a wildly explosive ending that still manages to keep characters and their emotions at its center.  At the end, Chronicle is affecting, dramatic, humorous, thought provoking, exciting, and overall unique.  There is much cause for accolades in this well-rounded, impressive work by the young and talented director, writers, and actors.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.
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