July 30, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Chronicle

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Chronicle, 2012 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because I heard nothing but good things from the nerd set when this was first in theaters earlier this year, a deconstructionist take on superhero origin stories that cleverly uses found footage and cutting-edge digital effects within a suburban teen setting.

The reality: Holy crap, man -- this may very well be the best low-budget genre picture I've seen in the last five years. And that's because of two highly specific things going on here, both of which would've failed if not for the other: first, that writers Max Landis (yes, son of filmmaker John Landis) and Josh Trank (also the movie's director, making his career debut here if you can believe it) turn in an impeccable script, an almost perfect story that takes the usual tropes of superhero origin tales (teenager gets exposed to radioactivity or alien device, slowly gains powers that grow with discovery and practice) but twists them to fit within a highly realistic 21st-century setting, cutting literally every second of plot and dialogue that would smack in any way whatsoever of cheap B-flick filmmaking (which is what you get when you practice, practice, practice -- for those who haven't heard this infamous story yet, Landis is only 26 years old but has already written 68 completed screenplays); and then they combine this with the kind of smart, precise digital effects that have literally only become possible within just the last few years, the kind of astounding "messing with the real world" stuff that made the fellow low-budget sci-fi thriller District 9 such a success too. Plus, the filmmakers aren't afraid to go incredibly dark in the service of telling their chilling story, essentially giving us a psychological case study on what would turn a normal kid into a cartoonish supervillain; and then speaking of which, that's the final saving grace of this unforgettable movie, and what is missing from so many of these "found footage" flicks these days, is that the filmmakers aren't afraid to go big at the end either, turning in a finale that literally gave me goosebumps as I was watching it. What an astounding time we live in, when highly intelligent twentysomething artists with a good idea and just a little money can churn out projects that can literally compete with trillion-dollar multinational corporations (for those who don't know, Trank is now the fourth youngest director in American history to have a film debut at #1 at the box office); and it's movies like these that allow me to have even the tiniest faith left in an American film industry that largely seems to have fallen into a permanent tail-eating downward spiral. If you haven't seen this movie yet, absolutely do so as soon as possible.

Strangest piece of trivia: Because of the tax breaks they were offered, this entire movie was shot in South Africa, with it literally cheaper for the filmmakers to ship in dozens of cars with left-side steering for the mall parking-lot scenes.

Worth your time? F-CK YES

Filed by Jason Pettus at 1:46 PM, July 30, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |