By Don Simpson | February 5, 2012
Director: Josh Trank
Writers: Josh Trank, Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw, Bo Petersen, Anna Wood, Rudi Malcolm, Luke Tyler, Crystal-Donna Roberts
I went into Chronicle knowing absolutely nothing about it and I suggest that you do the same thing. There is really no way to discuss Chronicle without giving away — at least what I would consider to be — spoilers. But for those of you who want to read on, please do so at your own risk. I will try to keep things as ambiguous as possible…
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is an introverted senior whose only friend is his cousin Matt (Alex Russell). Everyone bullies Andrew, including his drunk and abusive father (Michael Kelly). Once Andrew begins carrying around a video camera everywhere he goes, the bullying escalates. But without the camera, Andrew would rarely speak. The camera is Andrew’s only real friend; it allows him to confess his innermost fears and desires. (Andrew’s camera is the perfect vessel for expository dialog.)
On one fateful night, everything changes for Andrew. He discovers newly acquired otherworldly powers and strength as he slowly morphs into a superhuman. As with everything else in Chronicle, the video camera functions as the narrative device that leads to Andrew’s life-altering experience. This is how director Josh Trank attempts to legitimize the first person “found footage” perspective of Chronicle, a perspective he remains relatively true to (even making things more interesting by offering explanations for some very creative, non-handheld camerawork), despite never explaining who found the footage and edited it in such a formulaic Hollywood structure.
Popularized by The Blair Witch Project (1999), the “found footage” narrative technique has flourished in the horror genre, presumably creating a more realistic experience for the audience. In most cases, the inherent boundaries of the “found footage” perspective are cheated for the purpose of maintaining traditional narrative conventions (true “found footage” films would probably be better classified as experimental). In Chronicle, Trank uses the “found footage” perspective to add a sense of reality to a supernatural story. The approach does make a lot of the visual tricks appear to be more real, but otherwise I found the perspective to be more distracting than useful to the narrative.
That said — it is the three lead actors (Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan) who make Chronicle something worth watching. They might appear to be far too old to be high school seniors, but DeHaan, Russell and Jordan certainly have the teenage attitudes down. I suspect this authenticity is due at least in part to the naturalism of the dialog in Max Landis’ screenplay.
I am just curious if I would have enjoyed Chronicle more if it was not shot in the first person perspective… Admittedly, I become way too distracted by the “found footage” tricks as I wait to catch the director cheating.