Director: Josh Trank
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Alex Russell
Watch Chronicle online in the UK: Amazon Prime Instant Video
With Dane DeHaan starring in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Michael B. Jordan in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot, you may have only just heard of Chronicle, the breakout flick for all three. If that’s the case, you’ve either groaned at the thought of yet another found footage movie or winced at the idea of yet another gritty superhero origins story. But Chronicle takes the tired genre and tried-and-tested format and comes up with a brilliant play on both.
Did Spider-Man spend his formative years pranking people at the supermarket? Did ickle Magneto shuffle around parked cars for a laugh? Andrew (DeHaan) does. He also gets beaten up by his alcoholic father (Kelly) on a nightly basis. And carries a video camera around with him all day.
If you can accept these two premises – the latter cleverly caused by the former – Andrew’s transformation from outsider high-school geek to telekinetic superhuman is both affecting and surprising. Encountering an underground glowy thing (that’s a technical term) with his older cousin Matt (Russell) and popular classmate Steve Johnson (Jordan), Andrew embraces his new powers as a chance to be noticed. The others are more responsible; while Matt wants to set ground rules about using their abilities, Andrew pulls spiders apart in his room.
That’s what Trank does so well: he establishes classic comic book dynamics between his characters, but does so in a way that feels unfamiliar. Each boundary the immature trio cross genuinely shocks, while the handheld presentation (and superb deployment of CGI) keeps it all grounded in reality. Including the breathtaking scenes where they take off into the clouds – carrying the camera with them, of course. You will believe three teenage boys can fly.
As their abilities grow – like a flexed muscle – Trank finds increasingly ambitious ways to overcome the limitations of a first-person narrative. In one casual, inspired gesture, Andrew makes the camera float around him, allowing for the third-person perspective that the set pieces require. Later, this segues into the more traditional use of CCTV cameras – and a female video blogger – to take us away from Andrew’s perspective. It’s carefully thought out and well edited, turning what could have been a gimmicky device into a movie that feels like it was directed by its own lead; Andrew’s control of the cameras supercedes Trank’s, removing the barrier between audience and character. In one confrontation, he sweeps his hand wildly, snatching a host of iPads out of people’s hands to capture the emotional scale from as many angles as possible.
The result is the most interesting and original take on superheroes since Unbreakable or The Incredibles. An introduction to a fascinating character – and an origins story for three talents worth watching. Super.
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