Andrew (DeHaan) is a nerdy teen videotaping his life in an attempt to liven it up. His hip cousin Matt (Russell) thinks he's nuts, but goes along with it, inviting him to a student rave. There they team up with the coolest guy on campus, Steve (Jordan), to explore a strange hole in the ground. When they emerge, they have telekinetic powers that grow stronger the more they use them.
But they quickly discover the scope for danger, creating a few rules that Andrew privately bristles against.
While this isn't technically a found-footage movie, all of the footage is shot through cameras that are in the scenes with the actors, including a sexy video-blogger (Hinshaw) who catches Matt's eye, random phone-cameras and CCTV.
But it's the story that holds our attention, with fast-paced progression as the boys' powers get more intense and the stakes rise to rather terrifying levels.
And since it's all captured imagery, it's played off-the-cuff by a terrific young cast that remains rooted in a realistically teenage response what happens.
Each boy's story is layered with their everyday lives. Most involving is the way Andrew is horribly bullied at school, in the streets, and by his brutal father (Kelly), while his mother (Petersen) is gravely ill. DeHaan plays these scenes so well that the Carrie-esque carnage that follows hits us right between he eyes. Meanwhile, Russell and Jordan are superb as handsome charmers who usually get what they want, but find their new omnipotence overwhelming.
Watching these three zoom through the clouds is thrilling because their buoyant camaraderie is so fragile.
Through all of this, Trank's direction is subtle and unfussy, never dwelling on the special effects, which makes them surprising and impressive. And Landis' script is a bundle of telling throwaway moments that linger in the mind and make us think about how having super-powers would augment our strengths and weaknesses alike. This moral complexity that makes the film a real gem, and far more provocative than Spider-man's exploration of how power requires responsibility.
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd February 2012
Box Office USA: $64.6M
Box Office Worldwide: $145M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: Davis Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, Dune Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 141 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Josh Trank
Screenwriter: Max Landis
Starring: Dane DeHaan as Andrew Detmer, Alex Russell as Matt Garetty, Michael Kelly as Richard Detmer, Michael B. Jordan as Steve Montgomery, Anna Wood as Monica, Ashley Hinshaw as Casey Letter, Joe Vaz as Michael Ernesto, Luke Tyler as Sean
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