Director: Nic Mathieu
Starring: James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood
Running Time: 107mins
Spectral begins with a soldier being killed by an invisible to the naked eye assailant and it is only because of some special hyperspectral imaging goggles that he was wearing that the attacker was visible at all, but not identified.
Dr Mark Clyne (James Badge Dale), a DARPA researcher, is informed by his boss that his expertise is required in Moldova where the US Military are deployed and using his technology. What he finds there, investigating the feed from the soldier’s goggles is that there is an anomaly that he can’t identify straight away and so Dr Clyne is co-opted into the next mission with his more advanced camera to get a better shot and more data on the unseeable enemy in the hope that they can work out what this attacker is.
This first foray into enemy territory is really well done; it is tense, atmospheric and claustrophobic as they enter the building that the previous team were deployed to and last heard from. Needless to say they do encounter one of the foe and they are decimated, not being able to hurt it or run from it, with only a handful of survivors able to escape.
From here on, the team, or what is left of it, are playing catch-up along with trying to stay in the shadows, avoiding these entities, trying to figure out what they are, where they are coming from and how they can stop them. In this sense the film does exactly that, there is nothing exceptional about the path taken, the familiar war tropes are all there; grossly reduced numbers fighting against a seemingly undefeatable enemy, one scientist/specialist who may be able to unlock the key to solving this situation, locals who have some knowledge pertinent to solving said issue, and so on. Where it is let down is when it falls into a well worn groove and doesn’t challenge anything that hasn’t been seen before. James Badge Dale as Dr Clyne, Emily Mortimer as CIA’s Fran Madison and Max Martini plays the embittered and grumpy Major Sessions, all play their roles well but in a particular bug bear to me Agent Madison starts off running the operation and ends up as the mother figure to the kids that they encounter along the way, it is understandable that she has skills as a translator but that is not enough of a reason for me to see her role diminished so abruptly.
The production value that has gone into this film is impressive, everything looks great and the effects to bring the “invisible” assailants to life are really well done, as you would expect from one of Netflix’s recent productions. The Call Of Duty style point of view is utilised and required in order to see the spectral beings and does hark back to previous attempts to harness the success of the First Person Shooter games that dominate the video game markets, and this does it well as there is a reason behind the need to show what the soldiers can see but it doesn’t rely on it.
What starts off with real promise ended being a bit flat in my opinion, as appealing as it looked to begin with it couldn’t quite carry it through to the end.