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'Chronicle' Review: Found Footage Cinema Grows Up


With “Chronicle,” the shaky-cam “real footage” movie, on the cusp of propelling some viewers into face-clawing lamentation, finally grows up.

The picture has a rousing spirit and an unexpected emotional warmth. It features good (if little-known) actors, a solid genre plot, and surprisingly slick effects that are especially impressive for being so seamlessly woven into the film’s low-budget look. The movie hustles by in less than 90 minutes, and it’s a lot of fun.

The story, by director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis–both feature-film first-timers–is a clever riff on the superhero theme. Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan, a True Blood alumnus) is the kid with the video cam–a lonely nerd documenting his miserable homelife with an abusive father (Michael Kelly) and bedridden, dying mother (Bo Petersen). Andrew is a high-school senior, shunned by the cool kids and tormented by the usual crew of varsity troglodytes–all the more so after he starts bringing his new camera to school. His only semi-friends are his amiable cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and, for reasons unclear, the gleamingly popular Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan, of Friday Night Lights).

One day, out in the woods, these three happen across a large hole that leads deep underground. Descending into it, they find something very strange, and soon after clambering back up to the surface discover that they’ve suddenly developed nifty new telekinetic powers. At first they use this gift for fun and pranks–floating little Lego bricks up into the air, baffling car owners by shuffling their vehicles around in parking lots. Then, with continued practice, they discover that they can rise up into the air themselves, and soon they’re swooping around through the clouds.

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