Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Soaring Surprise

Chronicle       WWW Score: 85%

It's the origin of the moviemaking process - "the pitch" - screenwriters and their collective agents attempting to sell their sterling script to the studio. One of the tried-and-true ways to get the thing sold is use of the "it's ______ meets ______" mold - the two blanks filled with easily recognizable/mega-successful movies (e.g. 'Twilight' meets 'Titanic'). Pick the right pair of inserts and a project greenlight is yours in the offing. In the case of 'Chronicle', those two slots would read: 'Jumper' and 'Cloverfield' - two flicks with ultra-cool concepts but some seriously stark flaws. And while 'Chronicle' has its own share of shortcomings (nothing as abusive as Hayden Christensen in the lead role) - it's a surprisingly satisfying micro-budgeted ($15M) sci-fi thriller that soars higher than you may suspect.

The Seattle-set, camcorder-captured, found-footage tale centers on a trio of high school seniors: Andrew (the camera kid Dane DeHaan) and Matt (Alex Russell) are low-key cousins - Steve (Nick Cannon Michael B. Jordan) is the school's superstar and aspiring politician. By way of a rave held smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, Washington, the threesome happen upon a hole in the ground that holds a pulsating meteor replete with razor-sharp points and a fierce ear-piercing pitch. Andrew's cam goes kaput - the cavern collapses - lights out. But have no fears, the radiant rock has transferred superhuman powers (such as moving Legos and baseballs via Jedi mind-control) to each of them and yep, considerable complications inevitably ensue. Andrew is riddled with a ton of emotional baggage - his mother on her death bed - his dad an abusive tyrant not to mention the kid's saddled with an unshakable "kick me" sign at his school. As the least stable of the group, Andrew starts to mess with his powers in nefarious ways, sending a truck off the road prompting a life-saving mission - slowly being swathed by the idiom "absolute power corrupts absolutely".

While 'Chronicle' has its fair share of hokey moments (the incessant need to justify why a character is videotaping a scene when there's no earthy reason he/she should be) and a pointless attempt to force some form of love story - the film somehow manages to work courtesy of cogent character development and actors capable of carrying it out. First time writer/director Josh Trank shows a flair for the flashy - saving his best for last - staging a skyrocketing battle-to-the-spearing-end through the lens of a litany of security and cop cams in downtown Seattle. It's all very reminiscent of the close of 'Cloverfield' in appearance but with a 'Superman II' theme - minus Superman and the Kryptonian criminals. If how you finish is the pinnacle of performance - 'Chronicle' drills the game winning kick through the uprights just as triple-zeros strike the clock.