The found-footage film genre: it’s enough to make you chew your own arm off. There’s an expectation of nauseatingly blurry shots that will most probably reintroduce you to your first handful of popcorn. However, director Josh Trank (his first feature film) grabs your attention from the very first scene. The surprises keep on coming until the credits start to roll and you leave the cinema – vomit-free.
Andrew (Dane DeHaan) is the generic high school outcast who decides to chronicle his life using a video camera. He’s pale, regularly bullied and generally weird, with an abusive father and a dying mother. He gets a ride to school with his much more popular and seemingly shallow cousin Matt (Alex Russel), who is Andrew’s only link to the preppy high school milieu he observes and is constantly attacked by. At a party one night, Andrew is asked to film a discovery made by Matt and Steve (the hugely popular football star with a blossoming career in politics, played by Michael B. Jordan). The boys explore a hole in the middle of the forest and come out of their experience, with a large and alien crystalline structure, having developed telekinetic powers. With their new found skills and an unlikely friendship, the trio strengthen their abilities and discover new ones – a journey that offers comic relief but ultimately leads to death, despair and a moral reckoning.
Yes, you’ve heard many versions of this plot before but it’s Trank’s use of amazingly fluid and interesting camera angles (Andrew learns to telekinetically manipulate his camera so all characters are largely incorporated into most scenes) with the integration of other video cameras, iPhones and security footage – largely made use of in the finale – that address the dynamics of social media and the polemic of being under constant surveillance in modern society.
This is despite the intelligent and harrowing character development which inverts all the generic qualities of the film, especially in terms of Andrew, whose character is exceptionally dark. He’s certainly no Peter Parker – more like a psychopath who’s developed superpowers. This is one protagonist it is difficult to feel sympathy for because he’s just too damn scary.
The film does wane in the finale and you wish Trank could have kept it going smoothly for a little longer. The rest of the film more than makes up for this clumsy ending. On a side note: the majority of Chronicle was filmed in Cape Town. Do yourself a favour and book your ticket now.