Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hole-y shiz!



1. Title : Chronicle
2. Release date : 1 February 2012 (Malaysia), 3 February 2012 (United States)
3. Director : Josh Trank
4. Starring :
Dane DeHaan
Alex Russell
Michael B. Jordan
5. Language : English
6. Genre : Action / Sci-fi
7. Official Website : Chronicle Facebook page

A movie that comes out of the blue, arrives without much hype and fanfare, boasts virtual unknowns, yet left you floored over by the end of it. And a sci-fi. If you thought that those two are mutually exclusive, then by all means, drop everything and watch Chronicle.

Chronicle tells a story of two high school teenagers; Andrew (Dane DeHaan, who eerily resembles a What's Eating Gilbert Grape-era Leonardo DiCaprio), a social outcast with abusive father and sick mother at home, and consistently being bullied at school; and his more "normal" cousin Matt (Alex Russell) with a knack for all things philosophical (seriously, who ever thought of Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" when entering a cave?)

Andrew bought a video camera (thus providing our window to the movie) to document his everyday life and suffering. In this case, the camera serves more as Andrew's faithful emotional crutch (rather than this generation's self-obsessive culture to upload everything about themselves). In an attempt to alleviate his cousin's seemingly-eternal pain, Matt brought Andrew to a barn-party, and somehow they together with Steve (Michael B. Jordan, a charismatic and popular shoo-in contender for class president) found a cave-like hole in the woods nearby when they encountered something (I shouldn't go into detail here), and fast forward to a couple a days later, they can move things with their mind.

It's called telekinesis as they would later learn about, and just like muscle, the power grows with repeated usage and practice (had this logic applied to the Charmed universe, Prue would be able to move the earth by season 3). And by practice I mean prank sessions at local stores and blowing up girls skirts. This is where the movie starts to shine (not the skirts). It holds itself grounded in reality. Seriously, when you give a bunch of teenagers superhuman powers, you don't really expect them to have a sudden epiphany or 'calling' to serve the world a greater good, you expect them to play baseball amidst the clouds! With-great-power-comes-great-responsibility mantra has no place here.

Everything seems good and innocent, until a life-threatening incident forces the group to think about the consequences that comes with their newfound powers. They began to set rules and do's and dont's, but Andrew, the ever depressive and social pariah as he is, knows that the power is his only chance to be better than everybody else. He did use the power harmlessly to enjoy some popularity, but not for long. Soon, things began to took turn for the worse (lesson to fathers, don't abuse your son if he have superpower), as Andrew grows more Anakin-like, building up into one of the best and intense third act in recent memory.

With the influx of found-footage movies to the cinema with polarizing reactions from the viewers (some love its "authenticity", while others hate the gimmick as a cheap excuse for bad light and seizure-inducing camera shake), 26-year-old (not a typo) director Josh Trank decides that his movie doesn't have to look like Blair-Witch crap a decade ago. Thus, his smart trick - the camera floats, supposedly using the character's power (seriously, if you have the power, would you carry anything?), resulting in steadicam-quality and long crane shots of mainstream movies.

Chronicle is also told by multiple camera's point of view, not just Andrew's, as we would first learn by another camera of video blogger (and Matt's love interest) Casey (Ashley Hinshaw), then by numerous CCTV outtakes, camera phones by public and passers-by, television news crews and police helicopter, all seamlessly joint together into an 85-minute piece of pure popcorn spectacle.

Staying true to it's found-footage concept, the movie never interested in explaining the power origins, or whatever it is in that hole, and I think some things are better left as it is. The CGI is of Michael-Bay standard (which surprises me considering the movie was made for a mere USD12 mil). And the cast ensemble gave a top-notch performances. Their below-the-radar persona lends the movie a certain genuine quality (you'll never believe a found-footage movie starring say, Shia LaBeouf). I can't help walking into the cinema comparing Chronicle to my found-footage favourite Cloverfield, but I never thought it will deliver so much more. If you're clicking to YouTube to find the trailer now, my advice: stop ruining the surprise. I once saw the trailer months ago, and let's just say thank God I forgot about it.

I haven't had such strong urge to pay a movie multiple viewings since Inception. And that's saying something.

Rating: 8/10

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