Film Review: Chronicle


Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides. (Source: IMDB)

In the final shot of Chronicle, we're informed by teenage tearaway Matt Garretty (played by newcomer Alex Russell) that he will 'search for the answers' that will come to disclose exactly why the events of the film unfolded like they did. As a closing sentiment, it makes sense within the context of the film. But for the audience, it's more than a little aggravating to say the least. Whether through sheer laziness or genuine directorial reasoning (within the context of the hand-held style, it may have appeared disjointed and forced); Chronicle simply refuses to explain away any of the myriad plot holes, contrivances and perplexing character developments it so chooses to force onto its audience. 

It does it to its detriment. Because while Chronicle is for the most part an entertaining, thrill ride of a movie in which a trio of high school friends (Andrew, Matt, Michael) become acclimatised to their newly-acquired superpowers, there's more than a nudging sense throughout the film that the film-makers behind the camera didn't quite know where to take the movie to excel on the terrific premise laid out. We were huge fans of Chronicle's theatrical trailer, so to say that the film works best and is most entertaining when we're seeing the three leads simply testing out their new capabilities (whether stopping a baseball in mid-air, terrorising little girls with giant cuddly toys, or getting the girl) is not surprising. Film marketers take note. But that's precisely the point we're trying to make, because Chronicle falters when trying to build on the, albeit excellent, special-effects work.

What we get instead is a lame excuse at trying to explain away the choice of using the hand-held camera (lead character Andrew is tormented and abused by his dad, thus documenting the evidence) and, like we have said before, an unavoidable number of bizarre plot twists. To have the film hinging on one characters' reckless misuse of power would be excusable, were it not that the character in question, Andrew, wasn't earlier portrayed as one of the most helpless, weedy and mild-mannered teens of the piece. We're supposed to uphold our disbelief on the assumption that Andrew is kicking out at the very people that have tormented him over the years, finally re-establishing himself as the person he's always wanted to be. It's the ultimate power-trip.

And yet still, Chronicle is another film within the hand-held camera sub-genre that largely outperforms what we might have expected from a first-time director and a shoe-string budget. It might not be wholly cohesive in terms of plot and story, but that doesn't take away from the fact that a good portion of the film is a thoroughly engaging attempt at imagining how teenagers would wield the power they've come to behold, and the rest of the film showcases some brilliant effects work that are all the more authentic when put in front of the amateurish camera work. It doesn't live up to the hype of the stunning trailer (which we presented in our This Week In New Releases feature) but it'd have to have been a truly remarkable film to do so. In the end, it's a worthy SFX-heavy science-fictioner to wipe away cinemas wintery blues. 6/10