Chronicle Review: Frames Of Mind

On General Release Wednesday 1st February

There are more superhero movies out there than you can shake a stick of Uranium-233 at.  Chronicle is a new take on the genre, a genuinely creative and realistic portrayal of what would happen if a group of teens developed superpowers.

Andrew (Dave DeHaan) has got it pretty rough.  He’s bullied at school, his dad is an abusive drunk and his mum is dying a slow death from her bed.  With her last days approaching, he decides to document his daily life and so starts filming his every action.  After being corralled into going to a party by his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), he follows him and his fellow classmate Steve (Michael B. Jordan) to an underground cave.  Inside they find an odd glowing rock but before they can investigate further the tunnel collapses and the camera shorts out.

Several days later, they realise that they’ve begun to develop budding telekinesis and initially use it to mess around – performing small tricks like building Lego towers and playing psychic baseball –  but the more they use their powers, the stronger they become. Inevitably, with great power comes great responsibility and as the temptation to use their powers in public grows, it’s only a matter of time before one of them snaps.

Chronicle is one of the first great surprises on 2012.  With scant advertising and minimal promotion, it could easily get lost among the other post-Oscar dreck but it’s certainly worth seeking out as it’s an absolute gem.

Screenwriter Max Landis (son of An American Werewolf In London director, John) keeps things tightly focussed and does a great job of representing exactly what most people would probably do in a similar situation.  After all, if you developed superpowers, the first thing you’d do wouldn’t be to don a mask and fight crime; it’d be to dick about.

This is immensely fun with some wonderfully imagined and constructed visual effects which will inspire jealously in anyone who’s daydreamed about being superhuman.

Trank marshals the usage of visual trickery carefully and never over uses it. Consequently, the focus is on the trio’s exploration and development of their powers and crucially how it affects their lives, not on the powers themselves.  But Trank doesn’t short change us either – he keeps the pace brisk and fast-paced throughout and in the last act puts pedal to the metal and accelerates Chronicle to an absolutely stunning climax which seems to come out of nowhere.

The found footage style (probably chosen as much for its budget as its aesthetic) is well-realised and makes sense considering that most people would want to document their experiences for posterity. Andrew’s ability to float the camera with his mind creatively allows a camera to be present where there usually wouldn’t be one.  Occasionally, it’s a self-imposed limitation which leads to moments of contrivance – notably the inclusion of another student who is also documenting her life and handily provides another perspective but for the most part it’s an inventive and fresh look at what can be done with the medium.

Chronicle is one of the first ‘must-see’ movies of 2012.  It’s fun, inventive, witty and executed with pitch perfect flair that breathes new life into familiar themes that were in danger of getting stale.

Follow Jez Sands on Twitter.