Directed by Josh Trank
Starring Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan, Alex Russell
By Mason Manuel
First-entry superhero movies of today have the troublesome burden of dishing out an origin story while still finding time for the hero to have a new adventure of their own. While this is all well and good in moderation, the protagonist is usually someone hard to step into the shoes of. We are not aliens from Krypton, victims of radioactive spider bites, or chosen bearers of mystical rings. For the most part, we are just regular people. So the interesting and scary question Chronicle tries to answer is, how would someone use superpowers if they were someone like… you? The screenplay written by Max Landis and directed by Josh Trank takes a fascinating dive into the human character of three very different boys when they are suddenly given the reigns of an unstoppable power.
When I hear about a new found footage film these days, I often condemn it as a cash grab. The Paranormal Activity movies have gotten increasingly ridiculous and most films in the genre feel that way, save for outliers like The Blair Witch Project. Hence why I am so delightfully surprised to see this refreshing new take on the style with the story of these three super-powered friends. Though the film primarily is fed to us through the camera of our main protagonist Andrew (Dane DeHaan), it never limits itself to that one lens. Our entire world is littered with cameras and Chronicle takes advantage of them all, particularly around the end of the film where some stunningly real looking special effects are used. Red light street cameras, police body cams, even random people’s smartphones are used to effectively show the full scope of some scenes. And when Andrew is not around, we have another who carries a camera around constantly as a life vlogger just to catch on any of the smaller things we might miss. It is a deceptively clever use of our world of cameras to get around that age old viewer complaint of, “Why don’t they just drop the damn camera?”
Even more stunning is the relatively unexperienced cast and crew which put on such a spectacular show. At the time, director Josh Trank had never filmed a feature film before. Screenplay writer Max Landis had written scripts for only a few short films before. But together they are one hell of a team. Landis in particular deserved props for his fantastic script making the jovial reckless banter between the three friends feel legitimate in how a few kids would react to suddenly be given telekinetic powers. The three amigos in question are played by Michael B. Jordan (soon to be shown in the upcoming Creed) Alex Rusell (Believe Me) and the previously mentioned Dane DeHaan (Kill Your Darlings, The Amazing Spiderman 2). The chemistry between the trio is great and all of them perform their parts to perfection. Jordan is Steve, a popular, cocky jock who has a sweet side. Russell is Matt, who is trying to be cool by not being cool because, of course, there’s a girl he wants to impress. And then there is Andrew (DeHaan), an antisocial, bullied, and abused kid who really wants nothing more than to be left alone. Being powerless has made him unable to stop from being shoved in a corner, but suddenly finding himself in the possession of such awesome might may not play out in the same fun loving way that his two friends have.
I have to drive home the point of how utterly real this film feels. If a younger, abused me was given powers I can’t say for sure that I would ultimately use them for good. Because nobody is completely good or evil as they are painted in comics. We all have views of ourselves and what we want to be. Chronicle shows the grey area in becoming a super and how good intentions can go horribly wrong in a real world setting with the help of some awesome direction, writing, and performances. RDR gives this a 9 out of 10.