You should probably go see Chronicle

12 Feb

One of the upsides of my PC breaking, then PC World employing the most comprehensively incompetent repairmen in the West of Europe, is that I finally have an excuse to watch more films. This mostly involves dusting off my LoveFilm account or rewatching Biffy Clyro’s stunning live DVD (sample!), but I’m a lot more willing to be dragged to a cinema too – last week we saw The Grey, which I can’t honestly recommend to anyone who enjoys happiness and smiling. Yesterday we took advantage of the inexplicable deal Orange have made with theatres to get half-price tickets on Wednesdays, and checked out Chronicle. It’s pretty good.

Chronicle is part superhero movie, part coming-of-age tale and all masterclass in character writing. All three leads – the American high schoolers who mysteriously contract telekinesis – are both likeably charming and, importantly, broken in some way. Obviously Andrew, the introverted hero (of sorts) seen above silently murdering an innocent car, is worst off – his dad beats him, he eats alone and thinks nothing of carrying an ancient video camera around his school. Matt, Andrew’s cousin, is well-meaning but dangerously ignorant of his relative’s dark side, while Steve – an athlete, but a disarmingly friendly one – displays a lack of tact and understanding that has grim consequences. Still, even when Andrew’s power begin to corrupt him, he never seems like an outright jerk; on more than a few occasions, his misuse of an incredible power is incredibly cathartic. But it’s the humane, naturalistic dialogue that really sells the boys’ friendship. I repeatedly have issues with films that can’t reconcile narrative ambitions with convincing characterisation, a kind of “Pfft, nobody talks like that” cynicism. Chronicle actually seems to portray people having a conversation, not actors recalling lines from a script. Obviously, once you can believe in someone, you can actually start to give a damn – Andrew becomes more tragic, Matt more conflicted, Steve more affable.

To be honest, the makers could have easily stripped out the pseudo-USP: 95% of the movie is in ‘found footage’ style, captured from the perspective of Andrew’s video camera. That’s fine, but the footage is of such high quality and is so often the subject of telekinesis (allowing for suspiciously steady conventional pans, zooms and angles) that when that format is quietly ditched during the climax, nobody seemed to notice. The home-video schtick could have been ditched completely with barely any effect – every other aspect of Chronicles is so strong, silly tricks like this weren’t really necessary.

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