<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Josh Trank. Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly.
To the uninitiated this ‘found footage’ style film may seem cool but if you’ve seen others in the genre then you’ll know Chronicle stretches itself very thin.
Okay, so it’s surprising that just the day before I saw this film, I rented the DVD of Cloverfield (Hollywood talent Will Files did the sound design on that and I interviewed him the next day!). Now I know the film was shot in POV (point of view) found footage style. If you’ve seen The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and of course, Cloverfield then you’ll know what I’m talking about. It’s when the movie is shot through the lens of one of the characters that is holding their own camera. So it looks more realistic, like this could’ve actually happened and you found the tape!
Cloverfield explored this technique wonderfully by making it look real but with very high quality – albeit nauseatingly shaky – production values. You feel like you’re in the thick of the action or that you found this footage on a camera somewhere and discovered these characters’ adventure.
Chronicle starts off with Andrew (Dane DeHaan) taking footage of his less-than-good life as a creepy (caught filming cheerleaders practising), misfit college student whose only friends are cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and his friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan). They stumble upon a hole, then jump down it and find a glowing ‘alien’ object and then you cut to them levitating objects with their newfound ‘powers’. And of course they film all of this. Well at least the director tries hard to make you believe that.
The problem here is that there are times when there is no point of view camera. It’s the director holding the camera. Then it’s another character that has a camera. Sometimes you don’t even know why a camera would be filming in a particular scene. It’s very erratic and becomes more so in the end when you have random security cameras being used to show you footage. And the whole first half seems like an overlong version of Peter Parker in Spider-Man discovering his powers for the first time. But these guys just juggle balls at a college day function and do card tricks (the ladies apparently want to sleep with them for that!).
But the fun and games end when Andrew (dark and twisted from the start) bends the rules and hits back at his abusive father (Michael Kelly) and then… basically everyone.
Director Josh Trank and writer Max Landis have definitely made an effort to turn this simplistic film into something cult-like. But it just doesn’t feel right. Andrew’s explosive retaliation at the end seems pushed to appear like a big budget action movie, which this is not. Having interviewed a Hollywood sound designer earlier, I did notice that the sound mixing elevated Chronicle a bit, giving those violent scenes an extra edge.