*Spoiler Alert! If you are avoiding spoilers, do not read further. You’ve been warned.*
Spectral (2016) is a new Netflix Original movie that caught my eye several times before it released to stream on the service. The pictures looked cool and sort of reminded me of a video game, but then I watched a trailer and it just seemed like a war movie. I’m not really into military movies. After such a rough 2016, I just didn’t want to watch such a film. I placed and removed the movie on my watch list a couple of times until Nordicmonkey showed some interest. His interest made the decision for me.
Spectral is amazingly alright for being a small action sci-fi military movie. I wouldn’t place it in the top ranks among movies but for a Netflix Original and my lowered expectations, it turned out to be a decent watch. Spectral also turned out to be a military movie with elements of video games and suspense mixed together in a story about a scientist, Dr. Mark Clyne (James Badge Dale), who is recruited to investigate a death of a special forces soldier by an unknown and unseen figure.
Clyne is flown to Moldova where the military was deployed due to an ongoing war in the region where he meets the soldiers, officers, and Fran Madison (Emily Mortimer). Madison believes they are dealing with insurgents who have developed the tech for a cloaking camouflage after watching footage of a barely noticeable blur on goggles worn by the soldiers.
Clyne and Madison are taken into the field to the location where the Utah Team has been decimated by the unseen apparitions. Clyne’s huge camera is mounted onto a tank so he can get a view of the apparitions. The unseen figures turn out to look like ghostly forms of humans and can fly quickly and instantly kill. The people of Moldova call them The Ghosts of War.
The Delta Team must retreat shortly after discovering they are no match for the ghostly figures and their convoy hits an insurgent landmine. After losing many soldiers, the group retreats to an abandoned building where they find two children, Sari (Ursula Parker) and Bogdan (Aaron Serban). The ghosts cannot enter the building because of an iron dust barrier placed around the building by the children’s father.
After radioing General Orland (Bruce Greenwood) and the group makes plans to meet at a specific spot for their rescue. They discover their original base has been completely decimated and very few of the troops survived the attack from the apparitions. The team must regroup at a refugee camp.
After regrouping and pulling their resources together, Clyne leads the group into an attack on a power plant where he believes the ghosts are being created. Clyne is correct and it is discovered the power plant is like a factory using humans to create the so-called Ghosts of War.
The storyline in Spectral is interesting and held my attention. The antagonists of an unknown entity give this military story suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat. I felt as if I was watching the story of a video game from Tom Clancy with a hint of Call of Duty. It’s the reason this film caught my eye at first, though the trailer made Spectral seem like it may be less in that direction. I mean the name is Spectral, so I guess I could have taken that as a HUGE clue.
I wasn’t sure near the end of the movie with how few soldiers were left after the Ghosts of War attacked the military base, the troops were able to have that much gear. Albeit some of the gear was rigged up with electrical pieces in order to defeat the ghosts, but it still seemed a bit improbable. Also, all of the team gets decked out in really cool new armor. Why didn’t they use this, to begin with? I guess at the time it didn’t seem warranted. Being overly prepared just isn’t in the vocabulary even though a whole team is taken by a completely unseen entity! Maybe I’m nitpicking, but it is a bit annoying.
Most of the time I think the acting is fine, but there are a few awkward moments of overacting. Some of the military soldiers are oozing with the typical tough guy act we’ve seen a million times in action movies and video games. Thankfully, I do not think it happens enough in the film for it to be a major distraction.
There are moments where I kept thinking, this is what happens in so many video games. When Bogdan scrambles for his father’s necklace and is killed by the apparitions, it feels very familiar to a video game story. There were several moments similar to this scattered through the movie.
While Spectral did not seem to avoid the trope of the military tough guy, it does successfully avoid the trope of turning Madison into a love interest for Clyne. At first, it seemed like the story might go for this route during the interaction between the two after the landmine attack, but thankfully we are spared the awkwardness of an overly used piece in this story.
CGI is used in Spectral but I feel it adds more than distracts in this story and really provides the video game feel to the movie which is why it caught my eye. I know some people are not fans of CGI, but I personally enjoyed the addition to this film. I am definitely not a snob about CGI, though it can be a bit on the embarrassingly cheesy side at times. I do not feel that is the case in Spectral.
The tech in Spectral designed by scientists proves it can fall into the wrong hands then be used to devastating effects. Clyne at the start of the movie finds his discoveries and inventions troubling due to this issue. It turns out as he is sent to Moldova, powerful tech is discovered in the region and it came out to destroy not only soldiers but innocent civilians as well. The tech itself destroyed the lives of many individual people in order to make such a horrendous weapon possible. As long as war exists, there will be those who will look to take advantage of science to create destructive weapons. Clyne chooses to shut down the operation by unplugging the nervous systems of all the ghosts being kept alive by such a weapon in hopes of avoiding more horror and death.
I suppose I misjudged this movie at first when I expected it just to be a war glorifying movie with cool effects. Spectral is an action packed fun watch with an interesting storyline and unexpected moral about war. The director, Nic Mathieu, did a good job with this movie even if it isn’t a big film feature.
You can watch Spectral on Netflix right now. Be sure to watch the trailer. Let us know what you think about the movie with your Geeky Talk in the comments below.