Chronicle

The key question here is: how do you view this movie? Is it an allegorical view of the pressures teens  are under today, or a science fiction based thriller revolving around three  young men who discover super human powers? I viewed it as the latter but the former struck me as I thought about the movie.

Looking at the movie itself, these may be dark times to be a camera-man in Hollywood with the ever increasing number of movies which seem to need hand-held home movie cameras, be it the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield or even Troll Hunter (the recent Norwegian offering). Where this movie differs is that it is not meant to be a mockumentary (similarly to CLoverfield) but rather a movie which allows the protagonists to be portrayed from their own perspective, through the use of the handheld. Their musings to the camera give a view to their frame of mind and allow for a glimpse of their view on the world around them.

John Trank directed this debut offing after co-writing it with Max Landis (John Landis’ son) and what we have here is three young men from different social and school backgrounds who some how also manage to be friends (two of the characters are actually cousins). Looking at them, they seem to represent a fairly “typical” cross-section of high-school life.  Recent movies like “Fright Night” (Craig Gillespie 2011) and “Red State” (Kevin Smith 2011) are shying away from using high-school jocks & “cool” kids and using more main-stream examples of high-school students and this movie carries on this trend.

What you don’t get in this movie is answers; you don’t learn where the mysterious crystal came from, you don’t know much about the boys’ backgrounds (like what really brings them together) other than what is immediately necessary for the story and unlike most other sci-fi movies there are no swarms of government agencies descending to control the situation as in Super 8 (J.J. Abrams 2011).

Soon after their discovery they begin to notice their own growing powers and realise that it is like a “muscle” that needs to be trained in order to gain in strength. What unfolds is a view of what happened Clark Kent or Peter Parker in their respective stories, only is it from the perspective of the struggle in dealing with how to adapt to these news powers. There is no sense of romantic dreaming here, the guys are thinking no further than the fun these powers can generate. The boys react differently to their gifts and ultimately it comes down to a battle between good and evil (as ever) or as they put it in the film – hubris and responsibility.

The hand-held camera work which might have threatened to derail the movie is carefully rationed and only used for plot purposes to move us to a climax worthy of Iron Man (John Favreau 2008) as we witness a modern urban clash of the would-be titans.

This is a well crafted work which is to the credit of the writers and director, as well as the young cast. It explores the boys’ reactions to their abilities and how, ultimately, they must find their respective places in very differing worlds. As I mentioned earlier we can read much in the way of allegory into this movie, but I prefer to witness how the director cuts away any un-necessary backstory to focus purely on the young men in question.  This not a cheap standard Sci-fi B movie, in my view, but rather a thriller, or even a coming of age movie which uses the sci-fi genre as its vehicle, rather like Brick (Rian Johnson 2005) used Noir in that classic.

Not the longest movie in the world, it moves along at a steady pace, well worth going to see.

Rating 6/10 maybe 7/10 a solid 3 *** movie that should entertain.

Margin Call

What do you do when you discover you have only twenty four hours to save the world; or at least save your job and the company you  work for? That is the question that runs through the mind of the junior risk management analyst, played by Zachary Quinto when he finishes working on data given to him by his boss who was made redundant earlier that day.

First time director (and writer) J.C. Chandor does a first class job in getting the audience to watch and engage with a plot and character ensemble which would not seem, on the face of it, to be likely contenders for our time. Who wants to sit through may be 90 to 120 minutes of an economic train wreck. Strangely enough that’s exactly what you do.

Probably the first reason for the movie’s success is the cast. You just know that any story line with Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Paul Brittany involved has to be of some worth. The performances by Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker and Penn Badgley add to the offering.

Quinto’s character never fully catches up emotionally with the events of the day/night; he may have been the one with the brains to recognise what was happening but he is forced by circumstances to stand and watch as events unfold around him, with his superiors working to devise a method of saving what they can of the bank. Bettany plays the seeming amoral banker who knows where exactly every penny of his $3.5m salary for the previous year went. Apart from the “hookers and entertainment” which are tax deductible we learn that he made sure his parents were looked after. Discussing his salary on the roof ledge with two of his juniors we see how despite the complexity of the situation and the almost theoretical nature of their business there is a human aspect to what they do.

Throughout the movie whenever the human aspect or impact comes to the fore we see a group of people trying to rationalise what they do and the impact it has, they know that morally what they do and have done is questionable to many, but they console themselves with the view that they are only meeting the needs of the market and are in essence only serving their betters. As we listen to this rationalisation we are left to wonder if they actually believe what they are saying or is it an attempt to excuse themselves.

The offerings by Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey are what make this movie stand out from a delivery perspective. Their performances bring out what is needed in the others and carry the story through with a sense of calm urgency. The script lines they are given add to the characters, we can identify them as personae dramatis in the bigger story unfolding on our news screens daily and certainly not empathise with them.

Chandor took what could have been a dreary dramatization of evens and delivered a well scripted, well delivered vision of the banking chaos which, although was set inside the banking world, very much had the outsider’s view.  The script contains some real gems, not least of all his attempts to explain the crisis without actually causing us to slip in to a coma.

Rating 8/10 = watch it, you will be pleasantly surprised.