‘Chronicle’ a visual and mental delight

'Chronicle' a visual and mental delight

Ian Britton

It’s not very often that a movie comes along that is just as enjoyable visually as it is psychologically. “Chronicle” exploded into theaters February 3, and manages to strike a perfect balance between being cerebral, violent, and deliciously frightening.

This eye-popper “chronicles” (get it?) the lives of three high school students who are suddenly endowed with telekinetic powers. A tired precept? Perhaps. But this is no cliched “student-to-superhero” story. The three boys use their powers for fun and personal gain, reveling in their newfound abilities to move objects with their minds, share an empathetic bond with each other, and even fly. However, when one member of the group begins using his powers with a darker purpose, the boys’ paradise turns into something closer to hell than the Garden of Eden. “Chronicle” is a disturbing look at the effects of a harmful environment on a person’s psyche, and how quickly limitless power turns into limitless corruption.

The film is displayed with a technique that most have labeled tired and out-of-date: it is seen through the perspective of various hand-held recording devices, from cell phone cameras to security footage. The primary source is the hand-held camera the boys use to document their adventures, making the film appear like a home-movie. This first-person method of filming has been used copiously in the past (see “The Blaire Witch Project” and “Cloverfield”) with varying degrees of success. At its worst, this method is nauseating and confusing, with jerky movements and loud screaming serving as a substitute for plot and dialogue. In this case, however, the method is used to communicate a sense of eerie realism to the story. Paired with amazing special effects and believable dialogue (most of which I could imagine my friends saying), “Chronicle” begins to feel less like a movie and more like a documentary- which only increases the sobering effect it has on the audience.

The movie itself starts out very slowly, and the first ten minutes almost drag. Once the boys develop their powers, the tempo starts to purr, and most of the movie flies by pleasantly. Then, towards the end, the plot begins to tumble out of control- in the best way possible. Everything seems to fall apart at once, and the film becomes a cerebral horror movie that is both visually stunning and profoundly terrifying.

The star of this film is undoubtably Dane DeHaan, who stars as the film’s deeply disturbed focus, Andrew. Having been emotionally and physically abused his entire life, Andrew clings to the newfound freedom his powers give him- and begins to feel as though his gifts make him entitled to take out a little revenge on the people who have been repressing him for so long. DeHaan, an actor fresh to the silver screen, switches disturbingly from placidly unperturbed to demonically insane in a matter of minutes. His facial expressions and actions are extreme, making you sympathetic at one moment and scared for your life at the next. During the climax of the movie, he becomes a terrifying and angry demigod that shocks the audience into a horrifed submission. Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan shine as his fellow supermen Matt and Steve, who desperately try to keep their downward-spiralling friend under control. All play their roles with an impressive amount of realism.

From start to finish, “Chronicle” is a masterpiece of cinema, though the easily squeamish should probably stay away from the theater.

4.75 out of 5 stars.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email