Since The Blair Witch Project debuted in 1999, I have been intrigued by the concept of the found-footage film. Obviously I am not alone in that sentiment seeing as the genre has exploded over the last decade, resulting in a number of low-budget, low-quality films that consistently disappoint across the board. Still, however, I remain interested in the concept as a whole because I believe that, if it used correctly, the technique could lend itself to an outstanding film. Enter Chronicle.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is your typical high school nobody. He is routinely bullied, his home life is a mess, and he has only one friend, Matt Garetty (Alex Russell), a cousin who he isn’t really close to. As a defense mechanism, Andrew starts filming everything he does, earning the ire of just about everyone around him. At a party that Matt drags him to, Andrew is approached by the school’s most popular student, Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan), who asks him to bring his camera over to check out what he and Matt just discovered. What they find is a deep hole in the ground that brings them into contact with a foreign object that imbues the boys with special powers. As the film cuts from scene to scene, we see the trio learning more and more about their abilities, beginning with simple telekinesis tricks like stopping a baseball in midflight and moving up to flying high above the earth with ease. But as they grow stronger, Andrew becomes more powerful than both Matt and Steve and he begins to abuse his powers, prompting a cataclysmic confrontation in the streets of Seattle.
Above all else, I think what sets Chronicle apart from just about every entry from the genre is that it is a good, worthwhile story without the found-footage aspect. Rather than using the technique as a crutch to prop up a pointless story or to simply provide cheap scares, Trank and writer Max Landis crafted together an excellent film that just happens to use found-footage as its medium. Overall, Chronicle stands as a compelling and sometimes thrilling film that represents perhaps the very best the found-footage genre has ever had to offer.