All the other kids with the pumped up kicks / You’d better run, better run, faster than my bullet
-“Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People
Foster the People created an instant classic. Tone and tune zip-line the listener into a teenage world where rejection turns to revenge. “Pumped Up Kicks” joins Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” as the anti-bully song. Bullying has come to the forefront of education over the past decade. Bully, a 2011 documentary, shows on screen the horrors of everyday life in any public school. Anti-bullying laws have been passed in various locales as a result of educators’ initiatives. For the thousands of kids who quiver going to school every day, a movie now joins pop music in response to social mistreatment—Chronicle.
Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) plays the high school kid everyone wants to abuse. His father beats him verbally and physically at home. Kids at school hammer Andrew for no reason. Girls ignore him. Andrew is the universal poster child for teenage taunting. Only one barrier stands between Andrew and his rough reality. He takes his camera everywhere. The camera captures what changes the lives of Andrew, Steve (Michael B. Jordan), and Andrew’s cousin Matt (Alex Russell). A non-descript other-worldly power source gives the trio new physical abilities. At first, the three revel in their new found traits. But soon Andrew discovers fresh opportunities for his powers. The bullied is about to turn into the bully.
Is it any wonder those mistreated in society end up mistreating society? Andrew becomes what he calls the ‘apex predator’, an organism at the top of the food chain: this becomes Andrew’s basis for morality. He considers himself to be above all others. Steve and Matt, on the other hand, recognize the boundaries. “Don’t you see this is wrong?!” they beg; but Andrew remains unrepentant. Andrew is unable to realize that others care about him, having been treated so poorly for so long. In a moment of clarity Andrew acknowledges “the thing had a power he could not control.” But Andrew cannot sustain any altruistic motives. He takes justice into his own hands. The evolution of Andrew’s character is the story’s centerpiece.
Josh Trank (director) collaborated on the story with Max Landis. First timers both, Trank and Landis take a cast of relative unknowns and some fantastic special effects to engineer a thoughtful tale. Reminiscent of other films (think a combination of Cloverfield, Blair Witch Project, Medussa Touch, and Full Metal Jacket), Chronicle asks probing questions. What happens when one is capable of controlling his world? What is it within a human being that understands responsibility comes with power? What psychological impact does abuse have on a teenager?
The origin of Andrew’s mysterious power is unimportant. Chronicle asks society to consider its impact on the bullied and his retaliation on society, whether armed with superhuman abilities or a handgun. Forcing one’s will on another can transform a superman into everyman’s worst nightmare. A world without transcendent order, without a moral center, cannot hope to control supermen, turned human monsters. Foster the People, then, leaves us with our only alternative: run faster than the bullet.
Rated PG-13 for language, violence, and disturbing images.
Tyler, my son, is an excellent editor and helped frame this review. Students everywhere should engage the ideas in this movie, as mine will, at Crossroads Bible College.