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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Accent

‘Chronicle’: Telekinetic tale stands too still

Josh Trank’s debut film, the science-fiction drama “Chronicle,” bears an intelligence and integrity that will mildly please audiences.
In the film, a friendship between three high school seniors quickly blossoms but is cut short when they all inexplicably gain the power of telekinesis. One of the characters, Andrew (Dane DeHaan), constantly carries around a digital video camera to document his life. As a result, the first-person narrative chronicles Andrew’s descent into power madness as the pressures of an abusive father and bullying slowly cause him to snap.
The “found footage” style of the film rarely feels anything other than gimmicky. Fortunately, this proves to be the only main drawback of “Chronicle,” a movie that otherwise smartly experiments with the science-fiction drama while also frankly addressing bullying. As the story moves closer to its climax, Trank is forced to contrive more ways in which the movie can be shot, eventually using everything from security to cop car-mounted cameras. It becomes clear that writer Max Landis’ script could work just as well without the ploy, with the upfront and dark content of “Chronicle” having the same impact.
Still, Trank’s film is quite brave in its darkness. Few movies focusing on teenagers, let alone supernatural ones, ever really address contemporary issues. “Chronicle,” on the other hand, does this by essentially presenting itself as a story of a school shooting where AK’s are replaced with superpowers. There’s even a subtle reference to activist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign, which shows how uncertain and pessimistic Trank and Landis are about the state of American youth.
“Chronicle” could have eschewed serious social issues to focus more on giving the audience some much-needed action. Instead, the filmmakers frame the story in a way that makes the characters more important than the special effects. As a result, when the action does kick in, it is genuinely engaging. Trank deserves kudos for injecting relevant, emotional investment into a genre that often prides glitz over substance.
“Chronicle” proves to be an imaginative film that  rewards its audience with serious content, an emotionally invested character conflict, and a bold storyline that rarely holds back.