It was always going to end like this. Each step of the way we are on board, and it makes sense. We'd probably fall too.
Andrew has decided to film everything: his abusive father, his sick mother, his loneliness and oppressive school life, his pretentious cousin who doesn't want to be seen with him. It's a situation anybody would struggle to cope with, but Andrew isn't even coping. When his cousin, Matt, persuades him to come to a party, he is approached by Matt's friend, Stephen, to come film a discovery. A hole in the ground containing dark secret that'll change all over their lives.
This is, if you were to take a person through the plot and character arcs, a pretty well trodden path. There's a lot of imagination and creativity here, some originality, but really the strongest points of this movie are things we have seen before. A rise and fall narrative, the weak becoming the strong, the self-perpetuating cyclical misuse of power. The film doesn't seem to hide it's intentions, either, and the direction the plotting is heading seems, from the outset, to be obvious.
I think this works in the films favour. The air of inevitability, the dark tone that acts as an anacrusis to any super powers or real character changes, hangs like a guillotine blade over the narrative. When we see our protagonists learning and growing, a nigh palpable sadness seems to add a new layer to every scene. Despite this, we invest in them: really, this is what makes the film so special.
The characters are relateable and flawed and complex. They have motivation that make them likeable, each one just trying to find their way, still early on in their life. The film makers have realised that the characters are the most important part, and the end result is a movie which does not have that much of a plot - certainly when you consider the central premise. Instead it's about getting to know these three youths as the invisible fourth gang member, watching how the powers change their life.
Chronicle builds to an impressive finale, a climax that really puts you through the emotional ringer. The limited budget is compensated for brilliantly by the central gimmick and the characters are pushed to the edge. Coming out of the film, it is no coincidence that myself and the people I watched it with all felt as if we had been put through the ringer. Towards the end, there was a few moments where the framing device broke down, became so contrived that suspension of disbelief is stretched thin.
This a great sci-fi, a great tragedy and a great film.