Fri, Feb 3, 2012, 00:00

Directed by Josh Trank. Starring Michael B Jordan, Dane DeHaan, Michael Kelly, Alex Russell 12A cert, general release, 84 min

THIS CRACKING little found- footage thriller – at just 84 minutes, it really is quite little – doesn’t half tell us a familiar story. The school nerd happens upon some superpowers, but soon finds that they muck up his life something rotten. Didn’t Marvel Comics found an empire on that myth?

The film-makers approach the material in a similar fashion to the creators of the TV show Heroes: nobody dons a leotard, domestic problems frequently intrude. Josh Trank does, however, find new things to do with the formula. There is a substantial amount of grit in its gears. The film is good about the awful narcissism of youth. Cult status looms.

Chroniclefollows a group of mildly archetypal high school students. (At times the film comes across like The Inbetweenerswith fewer jokes and more explosions.) Dane DeHaan plays Andrew, an anguished outsider whose mother is dying and whose dad is becoming increasingly violent. His cousin Matt (Alex Russell) is a clever bloke with a tendency to spout half-digested philosophy. Steve (Michael B Jordan) is the chap every girl wants to date and every boy wants to befriend.

One peculiar evening, the pals spot a mysterious hole in the forest. At its base they encounter a throbbing crystal that gifts all three the powers of telekinesis. They begin by manipulating baseballs and playing pranks in the supermarket. Before too long they are flying through the clouds and contemplating domination.

The film has fun showing the characters’ gradual evolution from conjurers to nascent superheroes. It features a fine array of explosions in its spectacular denouement. Chronicleis, however, most impressive for the way it subtly teases out the stresses and complexes that drive Andrew. By the film’s close – hammered by dad, devastated by mum’s illness – his forgivable neuroses threaten the wellbeing of greater Seattle.

The usual concerns about found- footage cinema do arise. Would that bloke really keep the camera running? Who gathered all this stuff together? The genre is, however, now so well established that one might as well question the theatrical asides in Restoration drama.

A very decent piece of hokum.