“Chronicle” Keeps It Simple, Changes the Game

Chronicle follows the friendship of Andrew, Matt, and Steve: 3 high school seniors who develop supernatural abilities and, together, learn how to control them. The primary point of view in the story—from Matt, the most socially troubled of the group—destroys the filmic fourth wall since it comes through Matt’s video camera that they occasionally share, thus varying points of view in some scenes. Although J. J. Abrams put the first-person single-camera narrative on the map with Cloverfield, Chronicle director Josh Trank takes this approach to another level by stretching the limits of what’s possible in the ‘Everyone Has a Camera’ generation.

What was advertised as a teen sci-fi thriller has actually broken new ground by grafting archaic rules of theater onto a form that obsolesced those rules by its very existence. Although the classical unities of time, place, and action prove too rigid for the dynamism of film, Trank introduces perspective as a unity perfectly suited for this period of filmmaking. In a time when seldom does a moment go undocumented, Trank only allows the viewer access to moments captured by cameras within the environment of the actual scenes. In so doing, the unity of perspective demonstrates that even given several angles of vision, absolute truth has its limits without the context of emotion.

Although Matthew’s struggle to reconcile his newfound power with his psychological weakness powers the story, Trank and screenwriter Max Landis add dimension to the movie by focusing on the bro-mantic sensitivity among the Andrew, Matt, and Steve that many movies about teenaged boys overlook. The weight that each character places on the friendship, strengthened of course by a unique but shared experience, makes Chronicle impossible to dismiss as “that movie where the guys have telekinesis or whatever.” Upon seeing the film, the more likely account would be “that cool movie with the Vince from Friday Night Lights” or even better still, “the movie that managed to comment on the hyper-documentation of our lives and provide a fun and engaging movie all in under 90 minutes.” If you haven’t seen Chronicle, make a point to check it out…if you’re into this sort of thing, of course.

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