Chronicle Review

Yes. Just yes.

If slogging through hours of purported found footage horror movies can lead to more stuff like Chronicle, yes.

Well, Chronicle isn’t technically “found footage.” It makes no allusions to any reality other than its own, and toys with the idea of multiple cameras to bring about a cinematic edge so often lost from the lens of a single handheld cam. It’s a film that doesn’t just throw itself together or use the concept to, say, work around a light budget. Despite its dim visual effects, there’s a power in seeing these three super power-infused teens take to the skies. It’s freeing.

In a way, Chronicle’s heroes (and its villain) have powers for cinematic purposes. They’re new found abilities to move objects at will -this after discovering some type of artifact with unknown origins- lets the camera move free of restrictions. It can float, hover, or settle on an interesting angle. The illusion is used for dramatic flair, never breaking the idea that some video capture device is near. A particularly poignant hospital scene is ruptured when a supposedly static camera begins a lurching zoom. The person in bed is not asleep as insinuated.

There’s more to this unsuspecting breakout feature than its inventiveness. It doesn’t cobble together unknowns for a loosely projected narrative that feels secondary to the gimmick. There’s a slow burn of character development, and a snapping point that sends Chronicle spiraling ever downward. The film has more than high school-level politics riding on it. Three teenagers have the ability to scare children, mess with their parents and friends, but those same abilities have a constant, droning threat. They’re uncontrolled, and nothing is more dangerous than a teen without control, certainly ones with super powers.

No, Chronicle isn’t the be all of super hero films, but at a time when big time features are clogging the screen with with genre redundancies, it’s an admirable break. Sometimes, Chronicle sees too much. You wish it would back off a little with its cameras, as if two kids at the same school have the same obsession with filming everything in their lives. It’s not that there’s a need for less of the film, so much as the information needs to be presented without breaking an otherwise smart logic base. There’s potential life in this idea if the studio wants to pursue it, but it would be treading on awfully fine ground.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Don’t be alarmed by the first 14-minutes. As one of the characters makes clear in dialogue, the camera being used is, “from 2004.” That glaring edge enhancement and simply awful compression is only temporary. This mediocre capture device is mercifully destroyed, and replaced by the Arri Alexa.

Then, Chronicle catches visual fire. Part of it may just be the dramatic difference in quality, but the level of sharpness and brilliantly clear definition is striking. The world comes alive without any manipulation. Texture soars, from something as simple as grass to close-ups that pour on the facial detail.

It’s not always “on” per se, but the majority scores. Instances of noise are negligible and add a layer of grit the image is otherwise missing from its digital origins. Very mild flicker and a hint of aliasing are barely worth the time it took to type the problem out. Black levels will dim on a few occasions with only mild impairment.

Since it’s not playing strict with the “found” footage ideals, there is some tweaking to the color timing. Saturation is added to highlight those moments of discovery and mischief, then drained when content takes a turn for the dramatic. Flesh tones come away unscathed, meaning you get all of the benefits without any of the usual detractors.

Video ★★★★☆ 

There’s a ton of work put into this DTS-HD mix, from the chaos of over populated parties to the brilliance of the action scenes. It’s all top level material. Chronicle makes it important to be centered and in the lives of these characters, while not missing anything. Positional dialogue is always appreciated when used with a caring hand, and there’s a plethora of it in this feature. People always have a place in the film, whether on or off camera.

There’s a flying sequence -say halfway through- that brings an A game to disorient the listener. Above the clouds, the visuals are enough to be vomit inducing, but with the heavy winds and teens moving well past the speed limit (assuming the sky had one), it’s a dazzling showcase moment. The disruption of a jet liner makes it all the better, roaring engines slowly pushing into the LFE before making themselves fully known.

When the chaos is allowed to breed, the mix goes into full gear. It’s complex too, the multiple camera angles providing looks from dash cameras, iOS devices, helicopters, and cell phones. Each of those has a distinct audio cue and sound without any loss in the tracking ability should it make sense. Flying cars are drowned out by helicopter blades situated in the surrounds for example when in the chopper’s POV. The precision and LFE use is dramatic and totally effective in what it’s trying to accomplish.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Despite a box office draw that was surprising, extras are skimpy. A single deleted scene is barely worth inclusion, pre-visualization animatics are fun to watch, a camera test is a trial run with non-actors, while trailers and BD-Live access try to freshen things up.

Extras ★☆☆☆☆ 

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For more information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.