Sunday, February 19, 2012

'Chronicle' Review - A Brilliant Take on Found Footage and Superheroes

When anyone utters the words found footage when talking about movies, I become very hesitant of the film. I'm not usually a fan of found footage features, with a select few such as 'Cloverfield' and 'Rec'. But the idea of a found footage movie dealing with superheroes had me very intrigued, especially one written by Max Landis, the writer of one of my favorite novels, 'World War Z'. Directed by new comer Josh Trank, 'Chronicle' not only is one of the best superhero films that's been made, but also one of the best uses of found footage that's been used.

High school student Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) doesn't have the easiest life. He gets picked on at school, his fathers an alcoholic, and his mother is sick. To help himself cope with what is going on, he decides to begin filming everything he does. One night when he's at a high school party with his cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), and Matt's friend Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan) a whole out in the middle of the forest. They decide to investigate and the next thing they know they have psychic powers. They begin to mess with their new found abilities and discover just what they can do with it, and how having them can lead to a downward spiral.

Honestly, 'Chronicle' is some most fun I've had at a superhero movie in a long time. This was such a well thought out film, with a really great story and three very well cast and written characters that elevate this movie  ahead of many of the more recent films in both genres. Josh Trank has proven to be an exceptional director on his first outing, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what he does next. Trank knows character, story, and special effects. He's brought an old school approach that makes the film work even better. By using practical effects, the movie works even better.

But the thing that Trank and Landis do the best though is their attention to the characters. They make sure that we understand and care about Andrew, Matt, and Steve and understand all their feelings and motivations. These are three of the most relatable characters I've gotten to watch in quite some time. They really feel like real high school students that you could have been with. All three of the actors are faces I've seen before, and I've enjoyed them all in the various things I've seen them in. But here is the first time I've really gotten to enjoy them and see them shine. Dane especially, who plays Andrew, gets to play so many different sides to the character, he's just a joy to watch. To watch his gradual decent is really interesting, and he pulls it off really well. He and Alex who plays his cousin Matt have great chemistry, and it seemed very natural. Especially towards the end. But my favorite character is definitely Steve, played by Michael B. Jordan, who I've come to love over the last season or two of 'Parenthood'. He is very charismatic, and I absolutely loved him every time he was on screen.

What really impressed me though, other than the characters, was the special effects. Trank used a lot of practical effects to create his characters super powers. That added a lot of extra realism to what they were doing, and for me, worked better. Nothing looked nearly as CGI and fake as many the times things like that can. Trank really has a great eye for effects and knows how to utilize them properly. He also has a great eye for action. The final act of the film, set in Seattle, is one of the most intense and cool fight scenes I've seen in a superhero film. And doing it in a found footage style was even more interesting, as it cut from things like news casts, to cell phone videos, to security cameras. It was just really fantastic and fun to watch.

'Chronicle' is not only one of the best found footage films that's been made, but one of the best superhero movies as well. It's made me fall in love all over again with the genre, and shown that not all superhero films have to be cookie cutter and by the book as many can be. With an excellent story, a great cast, and outstanding special effects, 'Chronicle' is the first truly great film of the year. Josh Trank has proven to be an upcoming director to really watch, because he's proven he's definitely got the talent to do great things. I know rumors are swirling about a sequel, but I don't want it to happen. I'd love to see this movie stand on it's own as it is. It just works too well to have a sequel. I can't recommend this movie enough.

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