Another High School flick, right? That would be yes and no. Yes, because it is another one of those high school dummies—no, because it’s not just another high school flick in the never-ending cycle. First time Director Josh Trank stylizes the high school echelon with Chronicle presenting three clichéd characters: a loner, a popular dude, and a stoner bonding over a predicament that brings them together, and shatters them forever—Chronicle, to sum it up. Featuring a young and almost unknown cast up until that point, Chronicle is shot exclusively in found footage style, multiple point of view shots—capitalizing on the authenticity created by found footage filming over synthetic filming of arranged shots that could sometimes appear too fabricated in film. On the contrary, though, found footage movies have tendency of being rather disturbing and poor in terms of story and treatment; luckily for Chronicle, the style adds to the story—showing us the world around 3 teenagers from their points of view, and sometimes through telekinetic steady shots.
Andrew Detmer, Matt Garetty, and Steve Montgomery, played by Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, and Michael B. Jordan are three high school buddies with their own shares of difficulties. Andrew is the troubled son in a dysfunctional family, with an abusive, alcoholic father and a sickly mother counting her days. Not surprising, Andrew develops personality complexes and refrains from social contacts. On the other hand, Steve has his share of family problems, with his parents undergoing a divorce, but the ultimate social guy—Steve is popular and an aspiring political leader. Finally, Matt seems like a stable guy driven by the philosophies of Plato, Descartes, and Locke. With a philosophical outlook such as his, it bounds to make him the rational one. Not without his sense of internal conflicts regarding the higher truths of life, though. Seemingly, Matt is the guy beyond the circle. Three different personalities and three different personas collide one night at a certain party and discover a strange channel into an alien-esque hollow leading to the underground. Once there, their lives change forever.
After the discovery of strange looking creatures that appear to be hybrids, the trio absorbs radiation, as it seems, and soon they discover their telekinetic powers as a direct result of the exposure to those bizarre objects underneath the porthole leading to the under earth. With such an incredible setup, Max Landis, the screenwriter, work really well in making Act II as entertaining and twisting as possible—staging the screenplay for a memorable climax. For what remains a light-hearted teenage supernatural movie for around 50 minutes, the story takes a bombastic U-turn after that and turns into a dark and intense supernatural thriller—whipping out the internal demons for one of the characters, when he finally has an outlet to all his frustrations, suppressions, and the cruelty that he finds locked within himself. The key is out in the open.
Directly or indirectly, Chronicle does an apt job in reestablishing the supernatural/superhero genre from a humane perspective, and in such an attempt, the makers manage to give it a realistic spin as opposed to what viewers are accustomed to in regular superhero movies. With great power, comes great responsibility; obviously, this has been the theme for so long, but with great power, what is within you too rises and all that is hidden under the mask, a certain persona sheds itself off, with the true identity of the person becoming as apparent as the world under the beam of sunlight. One of key elements boosting the story is the foreshadowing of events and more logically, the development of characters—very similar to reality. The story progression along with the growth of the characters is something to behold because the characters share a level of unpredictability akin to teenage mentality, and the story evolves much deeper and much extremer as these three people grow in power, strength, and understanding.
How would a bunch of teenagers react if they got supernatural powers one random day? They’d do something pretty close to what Andrew, Matt, and Steve do in Chronicle. The final 30 minutes of the movie is some of the deepest psychological gibberish projected in the superhero genre.. At times, it’s disturbing to watch due to the degeneration of the trio instigated by the mayhem that Andrew undergoes—making you recall Lord Acton’s great statement, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Chronicle is the embodiment of the statement and behind all the sequences, objectives, and the final goal—the movie, at the deepest core, asserts the corrupting influence of power. More relevant to this situation would be a reformed statement: Power tends to show, and absolute power shows absolutely! Whatever Chronicle is made of, that statement is the foundation.
Having a modest budget of $10 – 12 million, Landis demonstrates his tact as a writer in conceptualizing this brilliant idea, along with Trank—giving it a perfect posture for Trank to direct, in which Trank does a proficient job, easily one of the better low budget movies of recent times. With such a meager budget for Hollywood standards, the climax confrontation and actions are impressive with the use of VFX and the multiple shots—sometimes handheld, sometimes as steadicam, and sometimes as parts of news feeds, surveillance cams, and security cams.
An immensely well-made movie, with first timers at helm, Chronicle is more than a commercial superhero flick, although that’s how it appears. Using some wonderful techniques in filming and writing, this film is the go-to movie for young filmmaking enthusiasts, and a subtle reminder that big isn’t always the best—the best isn’t always big. In essence, Chronicle has a developed story, with complex, real characters, insightful story progression, and some fabulous special effects and cinematography making this one of the best teenage flicks in recent times… Add it to your must-watch list.