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Chronicle

It’s a superhero origin film. No, it’s a remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie”. Or is it a live-action version of anime classic, “Akira”? All three make sense, and apparently director Josh Trank cites 1978’s “The Fury” as an influence too. So, between that and 1976’s “Carrie”, I think it’s safe to say that Josh hearts Brian De Palma. Certainly, the “found-footage” technique of “The Blair Witch Project” and “Cloverfield” also comes into play, so at this point you may be asking, “is there any originality on display here?”. My answer is a big YES. This is a highly entertaining, oft-thrilling, low-budget genre piece. You’ll want to play this one LOUD—especially when the characters take flight.               A simple plot description could be, “three teenage boys encounter alien object, obtain supernatural powers, hijinks ensue”. And that is what happens—at a length of a trim 75 minutes or so, before the credits roll. Early focus is on Andrew Detmer(Dane DeHaan), a troubled teen with a dying mom and an abusive, out-of-work, alcoholic dad. Andrew decides to start filming his life at the opening of the movie, so you’ll quickly grow accustomed to watching things unfold in short, clipped scenes.  We soon meet his cousin Matt(Alex Russell), seemingly Andrew’s only real friend, who tries to get Andrew in with the popular crowd by inviting him to a rave party. Minutes after dejectedly leaving that event, Andrew joins Matt and popular kid Steve(Michael B. Jordan), who ask Andrew to join them in the woods to film something bizarre they’ve come across. There are strange noises coming out of a hole in the ground in a small clearing. A somewhat inebriated Steve jumps in to investigate, and Matt and Andrew quickly follow—not only to try to stop him, but overwhelmingly curious as well. The high school seniors rapidly encounter a pulsating, glowing crystal-like rock thingy, and then develop nosebleeds and pass out. Somehow, extricating themselves from the pit, we follow them over the course of weeks as they slowly discover incredible new talents. Moving small objects with their minds is the initial find, but before long they are able to displace heavier things like automobiles. As they learn to develop this mental “muscle”, it’s only a matter of time before levitation is possible…which leads to full-fledged flight(watch out for that plane!!!). Steve and Matt brainstorm that Andrew should utilize his new abilities(Andrew appears to be the most adept of the trio with his “gift”)to finally attain high school popularity. Andrew enters the school’s talent show and amazes his peers with his “tricks”. But things soon go awry at the after-party(shades of “Carrie’s” prom disaster), when Andrew manages to get humiliated once again. But he’s not a shy, puny weakling any longer…               The “found footage” approach doesn’t always gel, and there are a number of times when the device seems forced. Unavoidable, I guess. But, more often than not, it’s a powerful technique that allows us to drop by for the group’s key moments. There is also a brief coda tacked on that attempts to bring closure—but doesn’t entirely work. It also smells of sequel set-up, methinks? And there’s an underdeveloped subplot involving a high school female blogger who also likes to capture life with her camera. No matter, the vast majority of this enterprise works like gangbusters. It’s mega-cool and awe-inspiring when these boys learn to take flight. And Trank’s direction really gets across the thrill of what this ability might feel like. And how does he make everything look so spectacular on such a limited budget(reminding me of the marvelous low-budget great, 2009’s “District 9”)? I’d also like to point out to one of my regular readers and contributors how pleased he would be to see Seattle partially demolished, instead of the oft-destroyed Big Apple—a welcome change of venue. “Chronicle” is lean and mean and PG-13, but it’s also dark and smart—a decidedly rare combination.     Grade: B+

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2 comments on “Chronicle

  1. Yeah! Blow up other cities! BOOM! (Umm… how about we stop blowing stuff up?)

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