Spectral (2016) – Review

spcUS troops in Moldova encounter a new enemy – a silent, invisible killer, able to kill with a touch, and barely perceptible even with their new, high-tech goggles.

Until they have some understanding of the possibly-supernatural threat, the soldiers can’t begin to fight back. The scientist who invented the goggles is sent to investigate – to work out exactly what the enemy is, and how to kill it. As the enemy grows more numerous and more aggressive, the troops are picked off one by one.

I love films about modern soldiers dealing with the supernatural. You get horror and fantasy and sci-fi all blended together, a mishmash of the best bits from all of them. Futuristic weapons against ancient demons, superstition warring with science. It’s just a fun subgenre.

Regrettably, this film does suffer somewhat from the clumsy US-military propaganda that saturates Hollywood. US troops are the good guys, no matter what happens, or where they are. They are shown as peacekeepers and saviours – the background to the war and their presence is ignored. It’s not quite as crass as it is in Transformers though, so I can forgive it.

The special effects are solid but somewhat generic. It all looks fine, but the monster is a standard ghost-beast with aether streaming around it, and it’s been done many times before. I don’t think anyone watches these films for ground-breaking cinematography though, and it’s professionally done enough to add to the film, not break the illusion. That in itself is quite rare – SFX tends to be either poor or brilliant; here it’s good.

There is lots of scientific babble throughout, and I’m all for that. Enough research as been done to make it sound slightly convincing, and sufficient liberties have been taken to make it fun. I appreciate the effort taken, and I enjoyed the novelty of an original explanation. Here’s a spoiler-filled article going into the science in depth.

This is not a particularly dumb film, which surprised me. The solution isn’t just shooting ,and the characters experiment with many different ways of dealing with the threat. It’s good to see an action film devote more time to research and preparation than violence.

The characters are all archetypal, but appealing. There are gruff officers, affecting orphans, superior scientists and amoral suits. Everyone knows their role and plays it well. The soldiers were particularly well-acted, falling into their given tropes but managing to show a lot of personality. Such films succeed or fail based on how much you want the supporting cast to survive; in Spectral, I wanted them to make it more than the leads, which is a good sign.

Spectral is a fun film that takes hardly any risks but does everything well. I enjoyed the concept and the execution; it’s a good film to pass time.

Watch it on Netflix.

2 thoughts on “Spectral (2016) – Review

  1. Good review. You tell us enough to recommend (or not) the product, in this case “Spectral”, without spoilers, inordinate length or excessive opinion. It all feels reliable – the ultimate accolade for a review. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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