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Movie Review: Chronicle

February 3, 2012

Chronicle – A 20th Century Fox Release

http://www.facebook.com/Chronicle

Release Date: February 3rd, 2012

Rated 14A for violence, disturbing content and language

Running time: 84 minutes

Josh Trank (dir.)

Max Landis (screenplay & story)

Josh Trank (story)

Dane DeHaan as Andrew Detmer

Alex Russell as Matt Garetty

Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery

Michael Kelly as Richard Detmer

Bo Petersen as Karen Detmer

Ashley Hinshaw as Casey Letter

Anna Wood as Monica

Rudi Malcolm as Wayne

©20th Century Fox.  All Rights Reserved.

Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) and Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) in Chronicle.

Our reviews below:

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Chronicle Review By John C.

**1/2 (out of 4)

Made in the increasingly popular style of having been filmed by the main characters, Chronicle is a science fiction film with undertones of a horror movie, that shakes things up by making the main character a troubled teenager.  Although not groundbreaking like some have suggested in the immensely positive buzz that has been growing over the last few weeks, this is a fine film with several cool scenes and some interesting plays on both the found footage subgenre and the classic superpowers story.

Bringing a camera around with him to film everything that happens in his life, Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is the awkward kid at high school who’s more likely to get bullied than get the girl.  At a party with his cousin Matt Garrety (Alex Russell) and their friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), the three teens find a dark hole in the middle of a field.  Venturing deeper and deeper into the darkness, the footage on Andrew’s camera starts breaking up and what they find is never entirely explained.  But they come back out with mysterious telekinetic powers, allowing them to manipulate and control objects with their minds.

But with great power comes the ability to lose control and Andrew starts to embrace the dark side, using his powers to get revenge.  The fact that his father (Michael Kelly) is an abusive drunk adds a lot of layers to both the character and story, providing a believable backdrop to a lot of his more extreme actions.  Although there are some moments of humour, like a football game in the clouds and an awesome magic show, the film is more disturbing than you might expect because none of the characters become superheroes.  This is a study of how extraordinary powers could enable someone in their slow descent into darkness, and that is an admirable approach to telling what is an otherwise predictable story.

There is some inventive camerawork going on in Chronicle, including several cool uses of mirrors and some interesting moments where we cut to security footage, that do suggest careful planning on the part of director Josh Trank.  I also admired the fact that the film doesn’t waste any time at an efficient and to the point 84-minutes.  But we also have to remember that the film was made with a fifteen million dollar studio budget, which is a lot more than what many true independant filmmakers are given to work with.  The budget is particularly evident during a predictable action-driven climax, that unfortunately can’t help but feel a little too chaotic after the refreshingly quiet tone of the first two acts.

The film starts with an interesting sci-fi concept, mixes it up with undertones of a horror film, all the while under the guise of having been filmed by the characters.  For the most part, all three of these elements are handled effectively with inventive camerwork and believable performances.  Although I couldn’t quite shake the feeling as I left the theatre that others had enjoyed this one even more than I did, Chronicle is a consistantly entertaining ride and there are enough intriguing scenes to warrant a recommendation.

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Chronicle Review by Erin V.  

**1/2 (out of 4)

Chronicle tells the story of three teenage boys who happen upon a mysterious substance in a sinkhole that gives them powers of telekinesis.  At first using the powers to do mundane things such as build with Lego, they soon discover that they also have other talents like the ability to fly, as the power they have gets stronger.

While Steve (Michael B. Jordan) and Matt (Alex Russell) both agree with the rules that the powers should never be used on living things, in public, or while angry, Matt’s cousin Andrew (Dane DeHaan) does not.  The film follows Andrew mostly – in fact, it is his camera that films most of it through a ‘found-footage’ style.  As the film goes on, we watch Andrew’s downfall as he succumbs to the addictive and destructive power he now possesses, ultimately becoming a monster.

I personally found the way Chronicle was meant to be filmed by the characters a bit distracting at times.  While it did provide for some interesting uses of camera work (in particular through security cams near the end), and often an almost ‘reverse-POV’ through Andrew’s camera, it also provides a less connecting effect than the typical fly-on-the-wall filming.  I feel this to be a direct result to the fact that our awareness of the camera removes the feeling most films have of drawing you in to them happening in the moment.  It almost seemed as though this filmmaking choice was more to try to differentiate the film than anything else.  Still, for the most part, it was handled well.  The relatively unknown cast also all play their roles well.

Those looking for an all out sci-fi film may not find enough to satisfy them here.  Nor those looking for a straight-up horror, or superhero film.  In fact, the genre is more than a bit ambiguous.  If anything, it really is an, (at times interesting enough), look at one character’s descent into power and destruction.  The film also has a very indie look and feel, despite the $15 million studio budget.  While mainstream audiences may not find what they’re looking for, there will be many who will enjoy this film.  At 84 minutes, it is short and while I didn’t mind watching it, if I wasn’t reviewing it, it wouldn’t be something I would have gone out of my way to see on the big screen.

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Chronicle Review by Nicole

**1/2 (out of 4)

What would you do if you developed superpowers?  Told through a video diary, Chronicle follows Andrew (Dan DeHaan), a troubled teen whose father (Michael Kelly) is abusive and his mother is dying.  When Andrew, his cousin Matt (Aex Russell) and their friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan) find an alien spacecraft in a cave, they develop telekinetic powers.  The teens use their newfound abilities in childlike play, harmless pranks and to fly.  But Andrew’s anger leads him to engage in more than just fun and games.

Chronicle is hard to define.  While it has sci-fi elements, the ending becomes too clichéd with some of the horror elements.  I would have like to have seen more superhero action and more development of the sci-fi elements.  However, the acting is good and the psychological study of Andrew is quite interesting.  His character is both disturbing and sympathetic, leaving me with tears in my eyes at the tragic, yet inevtible and somewhat clichéd ending.  I enjoyed the moral questions posed in this film, about the use and abuse of powers.

Chronicle thankfully does not become too graphic in terms of violence, and at 84 minutes does not feel too long.  Although it may disappoint some hardcore sci-fi or horror fans, it is a decent movie that will have a following.

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Chronicle Review by Maureen

**1/2 (out of 4)

Told from behind the camera lens view of emotionally fragile teenager Andrew (Dane DeHaan), Chronicle is an interesting mix of sci-fi, found-footage and horror elements.  The film opens with Andrew at home filming his dying mother (Bo Peterson) while his angry, abusive father (Michael Kelly) screams in the background.  His camera is his one constant, giving him distance from his situation at home and the bullies at school.

When Andrew’s cousin, Matt (Alex Russell) and their buddy Steve (Michael B. Jordan) convince Andrew to film a mysterious hole in the ground, their lives change forever.  Inside the hole a mysterious force causes them all to have random nosebleeds and emerge with telekinetic and telepathic powers that grow stronger with time.  Sci-fi fans might be frustrated that no explaination is ever given as to what was actually in the hole.

The three guys go on to initially have fun with their newfound powers.  They play practical jokes, learn to fly and in one of the best segments, Andrew earns social status when he and Steve put on a magic act at the school’s talent show.  This part of Chronicle is entertaining enough with moments of light humour.  However, as Andrew has increasing difficulity controlling his moods the tone of the film gets darker and the ensuing violence moves towards elements of mild horror.  Yet it lacks any real jump moments or sense of foreboding.  It’s fairly predictable how things will end.

Some of the special effects border on cheesy, particularly towards  the end.  However the camerawork in Chronicle is what makes this movie interesting and worth checking out.  Also at only 84 minutes, the story moves forward at a fairly steady pace, never dragging or leaving the viewer feeling shortchanged.

While I admired Chronicle on one level, I can’t say I really enjoyed watching it because of the mild horror elements.  This isn’t usually my kind of film.  The movie will no doubt have a strong fanbase and following, and given the ending segment there’s lots of opportunity for a sequel.  Check it out if the basic premise and any of the genres appeal to you.

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Chronicle Review by Tony

**1/2 (out of 4)

Chronicle is the story captured on camcorder and surveillance cameras of Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and friend Steve (Michael B. Jordan). With an abusive firefighter father drinking up his disability pension and a mother on her deathbed, Andrew is disturbed and alienated from his Seattle high school peers, and begins to record his life on camera. The more grounded and philosophical Matt takes Andrew to a party and along with Steve they discover a cave within which something strange knocks them out. Having awakened with telekinetic powers and the ability to fly, they all have fun at first, but Andrew takes things a lot further with tragic consequences.

Directed mainly in South Africa on a modest budget by Josh Trank from a story by Max Landis using a relatively unknown cast, Chronicle has a very indie feel that should appeal to fans of strange tales involving alienation, superpowers and ultimately horror. In a running time of just 84 minutes we are treated to a lot of action while still being able to get to know the main characters. Typically grainy and shaky hand-held “found footage” is cleverly avoided by Andrew’s telekinetic skill at keeping the camera suspended away from him, and there are some interesting shots using mirrors.

Overall, Chronicle is not a bad film of its type, whatever that is.  Worth seeing, at least on home screens.

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Consensus: Although not groundbreaking like some have suggested and a little uneven in the last act, Chronicle is a mix of sci-fi and horror that entertains at a brisk pace of 84-minutes, with believable performances and some inventive camerawork.  **1/2 (Out of 4)

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