Along with the silent film The Artist (a delightful evocation of how the creative urge, when repressed, can deaden the soul), Haywire (a fantastically entertaining but politically troubling thriller about the interconnectedness of security states), and War Horse (a vastly underrated, beautiful, profoundly anti-violence film), the smartest wide-release recent movie is Chronicle, a kinetic fusion of Breakfast Club-style teenage angst with post-9/11 violence-as-a-way-of-life (or at least way-to-be-noticed). It’s one of those movies following The Blair Witch Project that purports to be a documentary but isn’t. Everyone has a camera in Chronicle’s Seattle. The protagonists may not have been born when Kurt Cobain died, but they represent the sarcastic, nerdy, depressed, exploited, and economically disenfranchised generation he sang for just as well as their parents, if not more so.
In the film, three teenagers discover a mysterious underground chamber, develop telekinetic power, and experience what it is to live with inordinate responsibility. At first, it’s just a good laugh—making Legos fly, stopping forehead-directed baseballs with a well-chosen thought—but things eventually take a troubling turn. Chronicle tells much the same story as many high school films: the soon-to-be class president who doesn’t have to ask anyone for anything, the jock who learns courage the hard way, the geek who lashes out to overcompensate for his own vulnerability. But its great strength is to take the geek more seriously than the jock and the popular dude.