WBRi Movie Review: CHRONICLE (2012) - Young Cast Delivers Notable Performances for a Novel Sci-Fi Film with Limited Resources

Trailer: Chronicle (English, 2012)

Chronicle (2012) Sci-Fi Film PosterKolkata, February 13, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio/ Penning Creations): A low budget science fiction is an immediate catch for film lovers, not only because of the relegation of science fiction to mean shoddy high budget ‘video game films’ but because film fans are always on the lookout for the new age Kubrick. Aside from its remarkable special effects and exciting format, Josh Trank’s ‘Chronicle’ will be remembered for the novelty of its idea and noteworthy performances by the primarily young cast.

Following the lives of three ordinary high school students, the film unfolds in the good old found-footage narrative from the point of view of Andrew Detmer’s (Dane DeHaan) camera. Andrew is obliged to carry his camera everywhere, partly as a cover up for his poor social skills and partly for the benefit of the audience to witness his largely browbeaten life at home and school.  We are introduced to his philosophically inclined cousin Matt (Alex Russell) who discusses the importance of will, citing a saying by Schopenhauer. We also watch his drunken father physically assault him at home. Our empathy is at once pinned to his overall haplessness. At a rave party, Andrew earns the ire of an irate youth for filming the general scene. But by now, we instinctively realize that the camera will become witness to something more fulfilling. Soon enough, Steve (Michael B. Jordan) appears and requests Andrew to film some strange activity at the nearby woods. Excited by the new prospect, Andrew decides to join him. As they walk towards the woods in the darkness of the night, we sense the familiar taste of a ‘chronicle’. We see Matt standing in front of a large hole dug in the ground. Steve offers to demonstrate the peculiar nature of the hole by the strange sounds that emit from within it. The three friends jump into the hole and we are led by Andrew’s camera through its dark interiors. Walking deeper within, the friends behold a huge, shining object on the ground that is the stuff of science fiction curio shops. We are now certain that the friends are up against a life-altering phenomenon.

Okay. So what is it about ‘Chronicle’ that retrieves it from the swarm of science fiction tropes? Certainly, there is nothing new about telekinesis or about teenagers squandering their new found abilities in childish pranks. But subtle nudges at ‘superhero fixations’ and ‘power politics’ manage to extract humor at unusual occasions, while unveiling a film that eventually attempts to talk about the perennial fight between the good and evil. While Andrew discards all attempts to make peace with his immediate world, we retain a bit of the carefully built sympathy by his eagerness to renounce the surrounding trivialities and travel to Tibet. Yet he largely remains the misfit rebel. But his cousin Matt emerges as the true hero in the end with his wisdom to grasp the limits to a human superpower.

Despite the trappings of the found footage narrative and the high-budget-epic-like finale, Chronicle’s aftertaste is in the rare capturing of a teenager’s realization of his dormant supremacy.