Saturday, February 18, 2012

NN REVIEW: Chronicle

Remember that awkward time in high school? When you were struggling to find out who your were? When the school bully would constantly pick on you and your step dad took out his frustration with life on your face? Then do you remember when you got superpowers and realized that you could make all your problems disappear? No? Well Chronicle is probably exactly what would happen if something like this occurred. With a strong cast, excellent direction and a riveting story, Chronicle has become my first great love of 2012.

Who says you need a billion dollar budget to make a great super hero movie? Chronicle is a testament to the power of a good director and great storytelling. Clearly in the confines of a restricted budget, Chronicle manages to tell an intriguing story about three high school boys who stumble upon a power that is too great for them to understand. Our protagonist, Andrew, is a high school loner who spends his only social time with his cousin Matt. Andrew is abused by his stepfather and can't seem to find anything to smile about, so he decides to start filming his life. It's his barrier to the world and a chance for him to document the things that have made him so frustrated with his life. This also gives us a believable reason for these kids to be filming themselves throughout the course of the movie. As Andrew's power grows, he steadily develops the ability to control the camera while he focuses on other tasks which goes a long way in moving us away from the traditional "found footage" scenario where we deal with a protagonist's shaky hand for 120 minutes.

The plot moves along briskly as Chronicle uses its roughly 80 minute run time to develop our characters, reveal their power, allow them to grow in that power, and then force them to suffer the consequences. Andrew and Matt discover a mysterious cave alongside their school's hero Steve and inside they find an alien type relic that we never really get a great look at. After the encounter, the boys are left with Jedi-like abilities which give them the power of telekinesis and flight. They quickly move from curving a baseball in the backyard to much more complicated tasks. I won't give anything away, but it becomes apparent that this power can be dangerous. Matt and Steve realize that their power must be controlled (with great power, comes great responsibility anyone?) while Andrew sees this as a chance to turn his life around. From there the stakes continue to rise until an epic climax that may be too big for its britches.

This is where Chronicle falters slightly. The entire movie, although obviously science fiction, is based in reality and low-key special effects. Unfortunately the finale quickly evolves into an epic battle that tears the city of Seattle to pieces. I'm not saying it doesn't work. The action is brisk and the movie does a good job of showing our protagonists battle their emotions more than each other during the encounter. However, it is here that the low budget peers through since the action calls for top notch special effects and the end result doesn't look as crisp as one would hope. However, despite its minor visual flaws, Chronicle tells a story that is much more intriguing than the powers themselves.

In the end, Chronicle works extremely well. Grounded by incredible performances from the leads, the movie manages to create believable characters in a believable scenario. I couldn't help but think what would happen to me if I stumbled upon these kinds of abilities (I'd probably be dead in about three hours). Although it may not have gotten the budget it deserves, Chronicle does an amazing job of doing the absolute best with what it has. If you're in the mood for an original "super hero" type movie, Chronicle may be just what you're looking for.


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