I am constantly in the favor of the found footage genre, as has been proven through many reviews on this blog, beginning with my surprised fondness of the Paranormal Activity film, and more recently considering one of the breakout films of 2012 in V/H/S, in fact, between a hopefully final fourth installment to the Paranormal Activity franchise, along with the other previously mentioned film it was already a highly touted year for the found footage film, add the surprisingly watchable and incredibly bold Chronicle to the mix and you do indeed having something decidedly revolutionary within the genre, begging for a push towards something grander, more artistic, but still considerably underacted. Hell, I have yet to see End of Watch and while it has not received rave reviews it sounds as though it is worth checking out and certainly not void of value, especially when considering that it incorporates a rather strict use of the found footage mentality. While the story within Chronicle is admittedly forced and somewhat overembelished, especially in the closing scenes which are the best portion of the film, despite technically breaking the found footage barrier for a couple of shots, it is something quite enjoyable to watch. Josh Trank makes the use of CGI, heavy special effects and clever camera tricks seem quite well-integrated and demands that the unique and often mocked genre possess some degree of respectability, even, I dare say, artistic credibility. One could certainly make the argument when it comes to Chronicle, as a good portion of the scenes seem more appropriate for a experimental art house film than what is essentially a deconstructionists consideration of the superhero film. Trank really does something special by making both the characters and the camera they use a thing to move through and around the space, considering the supernatural as a thing experience both within the filmic space as well as, I would argue, transcendent of it, especially relating to the way the camera is decidedly fixated on one character's experiences, even when he is removed from the control of its movement.
Chronicle begins with an introduction to Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) a social pariah of sorts who figures that the best means for dealing with his abusive father and deathly ill mother is to take up a video chronicle of his life, one that is all but hopeful, as it becomes apparent that besides being quite downtrodden by his home life, Andrew is also victim to constant bullying and degradation at school. In fact, were it not for his loose relationship with his cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), Andrew would be entirely void of any quantifiable friendships. During a party one night, in which Matt invites Andrew in hopes of breaking him out of his shell Andrew ends up being victim to yet another bout of bullying at the hands of an individual who assumes his videotaping to be some sort of voyeuristic perversion. Awaking from being knocked unconscious Matt and his friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) demand that Andrew brings his camera to an underground passage where they discover some bizarre crystal formation that glows a variety of different colors. During this moment, the crystal explodes in some bizarre light formation blowing the trio away onto the ground and the tape then cuts to the group experimenting with new powers that allow them to apparently telekinetically control the objects around them. Reveling in their enjoyment it becomes obvious that the powers can have positive and negative consequences, whether it be to boost their sex lives, or to cause a belligerent driver to go veering off the road into a lake. In hopes that they can keep their new powers a secret and avoid any conflict, Matt suggests making rules against using the powers on people, and certainly demands that they do not use them when angry. Yet, Andrew whose powers do not equate to an increase in social status begins using his telekenisis against bullies and even his own father, and act that leads to accidentally killing Steve. In a moment of last ditch desperation attempts to use them to rob a convenience store, only to cause a shotgun to accidentally blow up a propane tank, landing the angry Andrew in the hospital. It is here that his father berates him again, only this time Andrew's rage explodes into an uncontrollable mess and Matt attempts to stop him, leading to a rather intense telekinetic shootout through the skies of Seattle. Matt realizes that it is necessary to kill Andrew in order to save the entire city, doing so defeated and saddened, although in a touching final scene, Matt travels to a place where the trio agreed to go with their new powers, asking for his deceased cousins forgiveness and understanding.
Chronicle, like so many movies I have reviewed recently appears to be a multitude of things, perhaps a commentary on mental handicap and learning to embrace it within an individual, or even a statement about youth and their attachment to a technological world. Hell, it is even on a very basic level a run-of-the-mill high school coming of age story, yet what I cannot stop considering is the manner in which the film clearly fixates itself on the woes of bullying and understanding the effects such ignorant behavior can have on an individual and the way in which they engage with the world around them. It is a pertinent topic for this year and one that clearly needs to always be considered within films marketed at this age group, it was not but about a half a year ago that a college student took his life after discovering that his roommate videotaped him engaging in intercourse with a partner of the same sex, ultimately, shaming him in the process. It is no doubt that the degree of bullying occurring within Chronicle has a certain amount of heightened intensity to it, after all, it is a piece of action cinema, but one cannot ignore the lack of parental figures around the school to take a strict stance against such actions, not to mention the complete nonexistence of a welcoming environment for Andrew outside of the public space. In fact, one must note that it is not until he is literally able to fly away from his problems that he claims to be enjoying his life, yet as the narrative suggests, even these moments of escapism do not mean complete removal from his very grounded and very real issues, many of which center on his own internalized failures as a masculine figure. Certainly, it is during a party in which he fails to consummate a sexual act that even Steve and Matt criticize him, undoubtedly, leading to his downfall and breaking off from any sort of sane connection to the world. While the narrative could certainly have ended with Andrew taking his own life or something in that vein, it chooses another equally viable outcome, the enacted social rage against those in the world around him. Andrew attacks everything, because in his bullied eyes everything is his enemy and it is really hard not to say that the individuals involved did not have it coming. It is a film that severely critiques unbridled othering and degrading of individuals, calling for an embracing of those even the most wildly different in society. A pertinent film now, but hopefully not forever.
Key Scene: While the closing battle does technically break from the found footage tradition momentarily, it manages to stay true to it to a considerable degree and makes for solid fifteen minutes in which my eyes never left the screen.
If you love found footage films this is certainly a new level stylistically and is something of considerable notoriety. I would suggest snagging the gorgeous looking bluray if you have the finances.