What Are You Capable Of?
Director: Josh Trank
Classification (Age Restriction): 12A
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating out of 10: 6
The thought of watching another movie filmed as if it were found footage is not one that excites me. The trend for these type of films started with the much over-hyped Blair Witch Project back in 1999 (a film which had been preempted by The Last Broadcast some years before) but has had a resurgence since the success of J. J. Abrahams' monster movie Cloverfield in 2008. Since then, we have seen the medium used typically in the horror and sci-fi genres to bring lower budget films to the screen. What then is the problem with this? In an industry which thrives on innovation and where the medium is already becoming cheaper to produce, relying on 'found footage' seems to preclude further innovation at the expense of the genre.
It is with this in mind that l came to the Josh Trank's lates film, Chronicle, which shows what happens to three friends when they discover something berried in a hole in the ground which is to change their lives forever.
Andrew 'Drew' Detmer is the typical high school 'looser'. Beaten up by his father and his fellow students he is largely ignored by his pier group and has no friends. Outside his family, and terminally Ill mother, his only human connection comes from his. Extended family, in the form of Matt and Steve (respectivly his cousin and a friend). In to this volatile mix he brings a video camera to document his life. But Andrew's life is about to get very strange indeed. At a high school party he is taken to a hole in the ground which he and his three compadres enter. Little do they know that there is something strange lurking in the bottom of this cave, something which effects them and gives them strange abilities. The three soon discover what they can do with the new found powers but these abilities don't help Drew with all of his problems.
The thing that really caught my attention about the look of the film was the quality of it. So many found footage titles play on the bad quality of the medium to hide problems with either plot or effects and this is not the case with Chronicle. For a start, the quality of most of the film is very good. It actually increases after an incident where Drew has a new camera bought for him and that makes this one of the rare found footage films which is worth seeing in high-definition. Secondly, plot points mean that the crew have had the ability to produce some really fantastic shots that one wouldn't normally find in such films. In fact, this really is where Josh Trank has made his mark on the sub-genre, mixing the hand held look with more traditional Crain and Steadycam work in order to illustrate the developing abilities of our protagonist. Sadly, there are also a few areas where the films falls a little short. The introduction of a second character with a video camera is something needed by the film in order to continue its conceit but this does detract somewhat from the feel of seeing everything through one character eyes.
Plot wise, the film has a very interesting twist to the superhero mythos and one that should now be familiar to audiences since Marvel's rise to power and with Avengers being so large at the box office. There is a question about the responsibilities of power, even though some of this is lost in translation but to see this power being given to someone which such an unstable background and how they deal with this is very interesting. That is not to say that you should expect Chronicle to deliver spandex-suited crime fighters, quite the opposite. It is a film that focuses on the minutia of being a teenager whose life is effected by powers that bring responsibility and more problems, quite apart from solving any of the problems he currently faces.
Chronicle is a film that focuses on a section of the superhero genre and places it in to a more gritty, real life setting. I was reminded of the book Vernon God Little during this film. A book all about a child who is walking a fine line between sanity and psychosis.
Something else that should be mentioned is the fantastic performances from the young cast. Dane DeHaan, who plays Drew, has to take on he most emotionally dynamic role of the film and he does so with a lot of style for a young actor. I really think that he is someone to watch out for in the future. Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan also do some good work, even though their performances and characters are more from the movie-of-the-week stable than their co-star.
Ultimately, this isn't a fun movie for you to enjoy at leasure. It is somewhat gritty and does have a level of teen angst running through it. What really makes it worth while, and ultimately justifies the use of the found footage format, is the interesting look in to the real human cost of obtaining abilities that others could only dream of. Placing these abilities in to people who are not emotionally ready to deal with their effects also brings interesting concepts to light which does leave you thinking at the end of the film. Because of the type of film this is. I would suggest renting it before making a choice on buying a copy. It is not for everyone and those who just want to take this at face value may miss some of the messages and meanings inherent within the piece. All in all, I really enjoyed it and it did draw me in enough to emote along with it.
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