REVIEW: Spectral (2016) – ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Spectral (2016)


Run Time: 100 mins
Rated: PG-13
What To Expect: Aliens meets the X-Files, just not hugely entertaining

I wonder how much exposure this movie got or if anyone but Netflix can see how many buys it has had.  It looks like a very large budget movie but as is typical with Netflix original movies, it’s hard to find a budget let alone how profitable it was.

The movie lays somewhere between Aliens, The X-Files and Black Hawk Down, with some sci-fi Gears of War stuff in there too.  The movie has been set in near future Moldova where a dictatorship has recently been overthrown and a new regime installed by the U.S. Government, rebels from the old guard are waging a guerilla war against the new establishment.  Evidently, somebody at Netflix didn’t have the balls to simply use the word ‘Ukraine’, but that would probably require admitting involvement by Uncle Sam, eh?  In the field U.S. Soldiers are there to help the new regime but are being killed by a new ghost-like menace that can only be spotted on certain optics.

Clyne (James Badge Dale) is an engineer working for the government who is brought in to analyse the findings of camera footage and along with CIA stiff Fran Madison (Emily Mortimer, ever struggling with a simple American accent) must find out what the spooky things are, with a hunch that they’re cloaking devices developed by the enemy. Of course, they get cut off and stalked by the killer ‘spectrals’.

It’s hard not to notice how hard this movie riffs on Aliens.  From the wisecracking G.I. (Clayne Crawford, the new Riggs in Lethal Weapon on TV) mimicking Hudson to finding a little girl who tells all (Newt).  But it also doesn’t stop at Aliens, how about Predator?  A lot of ‘ain’t no man’ stuff going on here.  That’s alright, I don’t mind that, but none of it is ever really gripping or intriguing and certainly not scary… I get the feeling that someone was under strict orders to keep things soft and easily consumed by the whole family.

Expensive, practical effects such as scratch-built tanks are a big selling point for 'Spectral'

Expensive, practical effects such as scratch-built tanks are a big selling point for ‘Spectral’

I feel that’s a slip up, for a movie that suffers too many cliches.  I mean here you have a Netflix movie where you’d think they have no limitations, but instead play things safe.  This could have been better, it could’ve been a 21st century Ghostbusters.  I’m not saying every movie has to have blood and guts for the sake of it, but when they’re toning down the paranormal stuff too and avoiding genuine horror, it’s a missed opportunity.  I’ll tell you what though, this movie looks great for something that didn’t get a full theatrical run.  They’ve gone to the effort of creating a lot of practical effects.

See, that’s a good thing.  In the age where Independence Day: Resurgence looks totally and utterly fake, you get a film like this, with real craft with respects to props and such.  Ruined streets, real rubble, purpose built tanks and armoured personnel carriers… it may rip off Aliens, but at least it puts almost as much practical effort in as that movie did.

Spectral is alright, nothing too much to write home about.  You might find it worth one watch, but I don’t think I’ll return to it.