Directed and co-written by Josh Trank (Max Landis was the other writer on the film) Chronicle is a brilliant example of what film making should be. The three actors who play the main protagonists in the film, Michael B. Jordan (Steve), Alex Russell (Matt), and Dane DeHaan (Andrew) really sell the film. It is not surprising though, Jordan and DeHaan have both been working for a while in the business and Jordan has been popular in television for some time now. Russell is the youngest in terms of screen time, but it does not show in his performance.
The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows:
Andrew has started filming his life. Although as we initially get to know Andrew, we can only wonder why? Andrew is one of life’s social outcasts. His life, pretty much sucks. His mother is dying slowly and painfully from cancer. His dad is drinking to dull the pain of the expense of caring for and the eventual loss of his wife. Unfortunately a by-product of dad’s drinking is physical and verbal abuse of Andrew. At school Andrew is pretty much friendless except for his cousin Matt. He is a figure to be picked on by bullies and shunned by the girls in his school.
His cousin Matt invites Andrew to a Rave. The idea is for Andrew to meet more people and work on his social skills. Alas, Andrew meets the same personality types in the Rave as in his school. He is thrown out of the Rave along with his video camera.
He is approached by Steve, a friend of Matt’s, who asks Andrew to come and film something that he and Matt have found. What they have found is a hole in the ground that contains a large crystal-like object that exudes light and a humming sound. The three boys are affected by this crystal thing and it affects the camera as well. After apparently passing out the boys leave the crystal and the hole.
The boys discover that they can do special things since their encounter with the crystal. Andrew who is filming everything, records the new ‘powers’ that the crystal has given them. The boys have seemingly developed super powers. They can fly, are pretty much impervious to pain, and can use telekinesis to control and move objects. Out of the three boys, it turns out that Andrew is the most capable and the strongest.
Andrew begins to change. Matt talks him into entering the school’s talent show. Andrew will use his powers to put on a magic act. Steve and Matt both help Andrew. The goal is to improve Andrew popularity at school. The plan seems to be working great until they go to a party after the talent show. Andrew disappears upstairs with a girl to ‘pop his cherry’ and it goes very badly. Andrew vomits on the girl and himself. Humiliated Andrew leaves the party.
Andrew’s Mother is getting worse and his father is becoming more abusive. These combine to make Andrew’s mood very dark indeed. He decides, in the depths of his misery that he is a Apex Predator and that he can harm or kill who ever he wants to.
This film caught my attention from the first frame and did not relinquish it until the final credits rolled. Trank and Landis have created a brilliant picture of what life is like from the viewpoint of a loser. They also show that being a loser has a lot to do with your state of mind, not just your circumstances. Andrew is one of life’s losers, so much so that even after he gets ‘super-powers’ he is unable to rise above the set backs he is presented with.
Andrew is so full of rage at the way his life is, he cannot accept that he alone change it. It makes his character just as doomed as if he had never gotten his super powers. Both Steve and Matt try repeatedly to help Andrew overcome his social ineptness and increase his popularity with everyone. Unfortunately Andrew is so bogged down in his misery that he never really stands a chance.
The film is brilliantly shot and the CGI is perfect. The scenes where the boys are first learning to fly and then mastering the skill of it are amazing. The entire film is helped by the Blair Witch and Cloverfield approach. We the audience see everything through the lens of Andrew’s camera and it is done so well that we can really identify with Andrew and his frustration and anger. If I had to hazard a guess, I think the message that the film is trying to convey is this: No matter how much power you have, it means nothing if you can’t rise above yourself.
Chronicle is a brilliant film that enjoyed a positive reception from both critics and the audience. I would highly recommend seeing this just for the flying scenes alone.