The “found footage” metaphor is a handy conceit for an entertainment industry that’s rarely held accountable for all manner of groundlessnesses. In this film, the subjective camera perspective makes admirable sense right up to the last act. An abused kid intends to document (and maybe even pre-empt) assaults on his person by his violent father and several contemptuous peers by means of the video-camcorder he acquires (somehow).
What might have been a moderately-interesting treatise on the power of inexpensive video to provide public evidence of privately covert abusive behavior becomes a different film when the three central characters, fast friends, encounter an anomalous and enigmatic piece of flobotnam that transforms this potentially-controversial Constitutional rights video chronicle into a salable superhero origins movie.
Power conferred by the enigmatic anomaly goes directly to the head of the largely-sympathetic camera operator, one of three suddenly-telekinetic prodigies, who becomes the film’s sole antagonist. It’s the fat middle of the film that permits deliciously-interesting relationships to develop (in lieu of tedious exposition about pseudo-scientific stuff that doesn’t particularly matter). That fat middle opens a fascinating window on the rapidly-developing drama, humor and pathos that bind and divide the central characters, with the aid of a ubiquitous video camera.
The telekinetic conceit greatly reduces the shaky handheld-camera distraction common to similar films. It’s also the engaging fat middle of this film that distracts the viewer from the violation of the “found footage” metaphor, when nobody bothers running the video camera during the pyrotechnic climaxes in the last act of the film. (When we viewers care about the people portrayed, we don’t care at all about the fabricated metaphors.)
Chronicle is a chameleon in that it seemed to be one kind of film until it clearly wasn’t quite what it seemed, at any given point in its running time. The only thing it continued to be was surprisingly fascinating, despite my expectations.
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