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Id never heard of this film (well, if Im reviewing it, thats obviously not the case, but bear with me). I subscribe to several movie web-site newsletters, and while Im not the Great Lakes office of Variety, I like to think Im generally aware of most wide-release films that come out. But I never heard of this movie, at all, until a woman at work whose tastes run to Will Farrell comedies (surely the lowest form of American cinema) recommended it. At first I was skeptical, as between her description and the title it sounded more like The Covenant than anything Id actually seek out to watch. But the last movie a (different) co-worker recommended was the Jason Segels brilliant The Muppets, so I decided to take a chance. Chronicle follows the story of three high-schoolers, popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan, who was so exquisite in The Wire), brainy Matt (Alex Russell), and his withdrawn cousin Andrew (Dane DeHaan, looking occasionally like a young, angry Leonardo DiCaprio). Andrew starts going through his phase where he films everything, and we are treated to his lonely, abuse-filled existence for the first fifteen minutes of the movie until Matt prevails upon him to join him at a party. While Andrew films the rave, the story is interrupted by Steves discovery of a sinkhole nearby, which the three boys investigate, only to find some weird glowing artifact buried within (intentionally shaky camerawork obscures just exactly what the McGuffin is). Whatever it is, it imbues them with psychic powers, predominantly telekinesis, which starts off small Andrew builds a replica of the Space Needle out of Legos using just the power of his mind but graduates to larger stunts, namely the moving of someones car while shes shopping in the mall, and then fatefully, Andrew casually tosses a pick-up truck off the road when the driver following them becomes too aggressive for his liking. The film does cover some familiar super-hero ground newfound powers and how to deal with them but its immeasurably smarter than the average journey down this lane. You dont even know it will be a sci-fi movie until about twenty minutes in (it seems like an indie flick about teens), and where Chronicle really stands out is that finally, finally, someone understands that story stems from character (okay, Joss Whedon demonstrated that in The Avengers, but that was a rare exception). Each character is smartly thought-out and more importantly stays consistent when his powers develop into a great deal more than any of them imagined (special mention must be made of the initial flying scene, which was the most innovative of its type since we first saw Chris Reeve do it thirty-five years ago the sheer joy these kids feel when they learn to break the earths bonds is infections and terrifically captured). The performances all around are aces. All three young leads stand out its hard to prefer one over the other. Michael B. Jordan shines here with the right projects, he could be a huge box office sensation. Alex Russell is strong throughout, and Dane DeHaan who gets the lions share of screen time and the darker role is simply superb.

The movies just plain clever as well; its just smartly thought-out and feels satisfyingly realistic (especially compared to tripe like the Tobey Maguire Spiderman films). The use of faked surveillance footage also adds to the realism as its so adroitly done (and probably saved quite a few pennies on special effects). The few showy effects Andrew splits apart a spider into its component pieces are so well realized they feel eminently natural. From every angle this movie surprised me. It was only toward the very end, when (naturally in a super-powered movie) things get out of hand that the light bulb went on over my head and I saw an additional shading of genius in this movie: it is, for all intents and purposes, a live-action Akira, except that its really well done and doesnt have a crappy let down of an ending. There is no longer any need for anyone else to even attempt this, for Josh Trank (director) and Max Landis (screenplay) have already achieved it, far better than any adaptation of Otomos work could (and indeed, more satisfyingly than Otomos original version). Ive gushed enough. This movie brilliantly exceeded all my expectations and deserves a lot more exposure than its gotten. Its smart, engrossing, sharp, and best of all, it didnt cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make. It just goes to show if you have good ideas and a good, well-told story that you dont have to break the bank. Ill be anxious to see what these guys do next, but honestly, it would be hard to top this. June 30, 2012

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