Various Hollywood lizards have spent a great deal of time trying to bring an unwanted, live-action, Americanised adaptation of Akira into production, with reactions drifting between hilarity and gnashing of teeth as project status updates flickered between ‘cancelled’ and ‘project back on, Keanu Reeves to play Kaneda’. Though Josh Trank’s first film Chronicle is not a literal adaptation of Akira, it’s so similar in tone and story that it’s safe to consider the Hollywood adaptation (last known status: cancelled) safely trumped.
In place of Neo-Tokyo we have contemporary Seattle, and in place of Kaneda and Tetsuo we have Matt, Andrew and Steve, three typical American high-school students who gain telekinetic powers due to reasons. Chronicle takes what could be a by-the-numbers ‘power corrupts’ story and, with plenty of character development and enjoyable set-pieces, turns out something far more interesting and personal, similar in style to Monsters, District 9 and Stake Land.
Chronicle has been described as another ‘found footage’ film, in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, but this isn’t really the case; by the final act so many different cameras are in play that it’s clear that nobody has collated and spliced together all this footage and that Chronicle is more of an ‘as it happens footage’ film.
This spin on the found footage concept helps keep the film interesting. As the teen’s powers and confidence grows so does the visual complexity of the film, helping to stave off ‘wobbly camera’ fatigue and allowing us to see the characters doing the filming. Introducing multiple cameras, and making good use of the fact that so many of us now carry around HD video cameras as a matter of course, allows for some tension-busting action sequences that put some summer blockbuster films to shame. A vertigo-inducing sequence in the clouds is a stand-out moment, but the entire third act is all nail-biting action.
A too-saccharine coda lets the film down slightly at the finish line, and the mouthy American teen tone can grate a little to begin with, but those flaws aside Chronicle is a spare, tight action drama well worth your time.