Clearly made to kick off a new found-footage franchise, Chronicle is a very clever story about teens who develop unusual powers, mixing everyday reality with some excellent out of this world sci-fi fantasy.
Living with a violent drunken father and a terminally ill mother, troubled and lonely teenager Andrew (Dane DeHaan) decides to document his life as an outsider by filming everything. Yes everything. With this rationale for the footage we then see, Andrew is enticed into a strange cave by his way too smart and philosophical cousin Matt (Australian Alex Russell) and popular all-round nice guy and alpha-male student Steve (Michael B. Jordan). When they emerge from the cave after the camera breaks down, the three young men discover that they have acquired the most bizarre telekinetic powers, which – in true next-gen style – they decide to keep a secret and use for small and selfish pleasures. But as their powers develop, and the consequences of their super-human actions start to blow out of control, so do the tensions between the trio, the film rapidly becoming an energetic and fast escalating battle of wills.
Screenwriter Max Landis and director Josh Trank (both in their mid twenties) originally thought the idea of a story about telekinetic teens might be good for a series of viral internet videos, but realised they had something bigger on their hands. Fleshing out the story and building ingeniously on the conventions of the point-of-view genre (that includes films like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Area 51) Trank and Landis keep the ambition of the film grounded in the reality of angst-ridden teenage life whilst exploring what might just happen if the powers to move objects with thought were given to those with more testosterone than wisdom. They also add a largely unnecessary subplot and love interest with beautiful Casey (Ashley Hinshaw) who also carries a video camera wherever she goes.
Alex Russell (who you may remember from the Australian film Wasted On The Young) stands out in the small and dedicated cast, and the excellent special effects are seamlessly integrated into the found footage format. Although the pacing is sometimes uneven – with a distinct lull in proceedings before the outrageously bold ending – the film is highly original and worth watching on the big screen. And look out for the next instalment: with a bigger budget and a more ambitious scope, this franchise could go anywhere.