Yes folks, Spectral has been watched, but I guess nobody is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to find out how good it is. But I’m going to tell you anyway.
In the not-too-distant future military tension has increased between Russia and the West to such a point that there is a military insurgency in Moldova.
In this war zone American forces encounter and unknown and unseen force that kills on touch. The only hint they have of its nature is a strange disturbance highlighted by some experimental goggles worn by the troops. James Badge-Dale plays Clyne, an engineer from the top secret experimental labs, who is sent over to work on the goggles that allowed the troops to catch a glimpse of the spectral creatures.
What follows is part Sci-fi and part Special Ops. It’s got its fair share of movie cliches, with gruff Special Ops soldiers, a scientist out of his depth and Intelligence Agencies with their own agenda, but none of that detracts from a well-told story.
The acting is believable throughout, and while few of the characters have enough screen-time to be really rounded they’re all competent and keep you in the story. There is in particular a nice relationship built between some of the soldiers and refugee kids.
The effects are also good. I can’t imagine they are at the cutting edge of CGI compared to some recent movies, but they don’t need to be. They’re initially subtle, believable and interact well with the “real-life” action. You’re left enough in the dark that for a large part of the movie you’re not sure what the troops are facing, and that adds an edge of tension that wouldn’t be there with an early reveal.
If there is a part of the film that doesn’t live at quite such a high level its the science and tech used to combat the Spectres.
Many films have what I call and A-Team sequence during which, with limited time and resources, everyone pulls together and make some that they really had no right to make. Spectral is no different as Clyne manages to knock together about 40 experimental laser beam weapons in what seems like a couple of evenings. Bizarrely they don’t even test fire one of them, but wait until they engage the enemy to test them out (and of course they work).
As the film reaches its conclusion we find out what the Spectres really are. The sciencey stuff used to explain what’s happening is a bit wishy-washy – like someone once heard the term “Bose-Einstein Condensate” and thought “I’m having that”. Luckily it doesn’t get in the way of the action and the film reaches a gripping finale. OK, you’re fairly confident about who will live and who will die, but it’s reasonably exciting, action-packed and has enough uncertainty to keep things interesting.
I’m not sure if you can really class this film as straight-to-DVD. There’s a difference as Netflix obviously thought it would enhance their offering. Legendary must have decided that the quick and easy money from Netflix was more appealing than spending a small fortune on marketing and hoping for decent reviews and bums on seats.
If you talk about straight-to-DVD movies you tend to think of utter bilge but I can safely say this is the best Straight-to-DVD movie I’ve ever seen.
Here’s a reminder of the trailer.