Within recent yeas a distinctive style has emerged within cinema. Made hugely popular through The Blair Witch Project, the use of handheld cameras to present a story has thrived within the horror genre, however it has also proven effective when used within Sci-Fi and Action films, as evidenced in Cloverfield. Chronicle develops upon this style, amping it up the the nth degree.
*WARNING* Features descriptions and images which contain spoilers.
Josh Trank // 2012 // 15 // 84 mins
Dane DeHaan) and his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) attend a barn rave, they, and fellow partygoer Stephen (Michael B. Jordan), stumble across a deep hole in the middle of a field which is emitting a strange high pitched sound. Curious, Matt and Stephen, followed by a reluctant Andrew, plunge into the cavernous hole and discover an unusual glowing rock formation. Three weeks later the boys have discovered they now possess the ability to control objects with their mind. As they quickly discover their ability is intensifying and becoming far more powerful Andrew seems worryingly neglectful of his abilities, and potentially dangerous.
Each of the three central characters are very well written and are perfectly realised by their respective actors. The performances are true to the often juvenile behaviour of adolescent boys while always seeming believable within the context of the narrative, evoking a true sense of wonderment within the viewer as they discover the great possibilities of their newfound powers. Early sequences of the boys pulling pranks in toy stores and car parks are great fun to watch and further scenes in which the three start to share genuine emotions with each other add heart to a script which could have lazily rested on its fantastical premise. The most remarkable role however is that of Andrew. There something disturbingly endearing about DeHaan's performance, providing both a charm and sympathetic quality to a considerably dark character, as he completely inhabits the role. Watching the detrimental effects of his new found powers is captivating, and DeHaan's portrayal of his descent is flawless, a true standout performance.
The film utilises the guerilla style technique in extremely original and creative ways, especially when used in conjunction with, or as a result of the boys powers. The use of telekenesis to move the camera out of the restrictions of Andews hands adds yet another league of possibilities to a style which is quickly being exhausted, with stunning shots featuring the camera fluidly roaming around the settings as Andrew films himself and his friends. Director Josh Trank has further tried to diversify the filming style through the use of numerous consequential cameras being used throughout the film. Having multiple cameras present throughout certain scenes in the film is initially jarring, but does provide greater depth to an often limiting technique and provides a neat commentary on just how easily much of our own lives could be documented today's world.
Integral to the success of the film is the portrayal of the abilities the boys gain. Straight away the fact that each of them receives the exact same power stands out from a slew of current 'superhero' films which juggle countless abilities amongst their ensembles. This also sets up brilliant conflicts throughout the narrative as each of the boys develops their power at different speeds. The lack of knowledge and explanation surrounding the boys abilities, where they came from and what exactly they are, makes the experience far more engrossing and exciting to follow and the concept behind the way in which they can use telekinesis to make themselves fly is also extremely clever and well written. And it is this sequence in which the boys discover they can use these powers to fly that leads to a truly magnificent sequence set amongst the clouds. Seeing three teenagers simply kicking a ball around at 30,000 feet is breathtaking and exquisitely executed.
It is in the climactic finale that the film stumbles into its only real complications. It may be the sign of exceptionally good storytelling that leaves you with a hollow feeling that something more could have been done to prevent the events that occurred, but the are also some technical issues. As the Climax of the narrative leads to the need for numerous other camera sources the action becomes heavily disjointed as it switches around the numerous viewpoints. While extremely creative the technique is not handled well enough within this sequence for the full impact to be realised. There is also the issue that the climax resorts an effects ridden battle against the entire police force instead of what could have been an extremely powerful and emotional one on one between Matt and Andrew.
Chronicle is a masterclass in the reinvention of both a previously repetitive filming style and in how to create an original and exciting 'superhero' story. The film also deserves credit or doing something practically unheard of within this hand held sub-genre, providing a form of closure. Which is a refreshing change from the standard abrupt endings that have become a staple of the style.