The tricks director Josh Trank uses in his low-budget debut feature might not be entirely original. But combined with a character-driven script and some great acting, he successfully strips the superhero genre back to basics and delivers a gritty, compelling little gem.
A mash-up of science fiction, teen flick, superhero action and drama, Chronicle gives things a twist by using "'found footage". As seen in The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity, a found-footage movie asks audience to believe the movie has been assembled from what its participants shot on cameras and phones.
This story is told through the eyes - and viewfinder - of high school student Andrew Detmer (DeHaan), a shy and bullied loner with an abusive father and a sick mother. One day Andrew decides to video his life, which is, as it turns out, a very timely decision. In the woods a few nights later, he and his cousin Matt (Russell) and fellow student Steve (Jordan) stumble across an otherworldly object that grants them telekinetic powers.
Discovering you can move things - including yourself - with your mind, opens up a world of possibilities.
Initially, they do dumb stuff - chips into mouths, making girls' skirts fly up, moving cars around car parks. But the pranks give way to flying at a speed that would put Superman to shame and playing football in the clouds. And yes, they are able to maintain the DIY filming because as Andrew gets telekinetically stronger he controls his camera remotely, which means the camera hovers over the action rather than being jittery and handheld.
You can see the inevitable dark side of the story coming a mile away, of course, you can't give superhuman powers to a lonely and resentful young man without consequences, and yet there are some nice twists and turns as one of the trio spins out of control.
It's a solid debut from Trank, who has used his US$15 million ($18 million) budget wisely. Normally "found-footage" films are grainy-looking horrors but in this case the idea translates nicely, even if the technique - which brings in shots from police cameras and other bystanders - still starts to feel artificial and forced.
Still, its approach delivers a fresh take on superhero genre and its attitude should appeal to its YouTube generation target audience.
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan
Director: Josh Trank
Running time: 84 mins
Rating: M (Violence)
Verdict: A fun, fresh take on superheroes.