Chronicle (2012) Directed by Josh Trank
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“I can fly!”
Greetings once again, Dr. Heinrich Schadenfreude here, with another cinematic case file to discuss with you today. I am a splinter personality of Talyseon, who is a splinter personality himself, but that is another case for another time. I just like to say I am born of too much caffeine, not enough sleep, and the influence of too many psychology classes. The movies Talyseon watches don't help either. But that segues us nicely into the movie, Chronicle.
The movie is filmed in the increasingly popular Cinema Veritas style, (for examples, see Apollo 18, The Devil Inside, and Paranormal Activity) where the camera is part of the action.
Here we meet Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan), a troubled teen. His mother (Bo Petersen) is dying, his father (Michael Kelly) is an abusive alcoholic who takes out his rage on his son. To this end, Andrew gets a camera to record his life, perhaps with the goal of using the tapes against his father at a later date. Certainly, they would give any judge pause.
The camera serves another function for Andrew, putting a barrier between him and the world. As he navigates the maze of jerks and bullies at his high school, his reticence is understandable.
Andrew’s sole acquaintance at school is Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) a popular boy who tolerates Andrew because they are cousins. He invites Andrew to a rave, suggesting, wisely, he leave the camera behind. Andrew does not, and it causes him no small amount of conflict. But then, he is approached by Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) student body presidential candidate, to film something he and Matt have discovered. Down a sink hole, the boys encounter something…otherworldly.
Shortly thereafter, the video diary shows them experimenting with throwing balls at each other. Why becomes obvious when Andrew catches it inches from his face…with the power of his mind alone. All three boys show varying capabilities; they can use it to shield themselves from harm, to move small objects, etc. It quickly becomes evident that Andrew has far and away the best control, with fine manipulation of multiple objects. They explore their powers, bonding with one another as only true outsiders can. And their powers grow, like muscles, as they are exercised. They use them for fun, haunting a toy store, and moving people’s cars in parking lots. Andrew gains popularity with his magic act for the talent show.
But the problem with new powers is that power corrupts… From simple pranks like turning on the leaf blower to blow up girl’s skirts, the boys have to realize it is very possible to hurt people. The problem, of course, is what happens if one of their number has a very poor locus of control, and deep seated hostility?
There is a love interest; Cassey Letter (Ashley Hinshaw). Like Andrew, she is a camera junkie. Unlike him, she is socially adept, and enjoys stringing along the too cool Matt.
One feature of the film is the rather ingenious way all action takes place on someone’s camera; Andrew’s, Cassey’s, convenience store security cameras, or police car dash cams. Another feature, and one I greatly appreciate, is the smooth motion of a camera suspended by telekinesis, or stationary mounted. There is almost no vertigo inducing shaky cam. And when the camera does move, it is…impactful.
The Cinema Veritas helps remove the feeling of disbelief, and allows us to address the issues facing our three heroes; suddenly given great power, could you honestly say you could control yourself, or would that power corrupt you? It is an intriguing question, and one that I think Josh Trank explores with some depth and sensitivity.
Part of the success of the film is that even though Richard Detmer is an abusive alcoholic, he is not an unsympathetic character. He is constrained by his own disability and its limited income, and his wife’s very expensive medications. He is a man pushed to the edge. So is his son. These very human limitations allow us to identify with them, even as they do horrible things. Because each one of us realizes, “There but for the grace of G*d go I.”
Movie Mood: Action Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Music