Directed by: Nic Mathieu
Written by: Nic Mathieu, George Nolfi, Ian Fried
Cast: James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Bruce Greenwood
Like many people, I’m (slightly) addicted to Netflix. It doesn’t help that they keep coming up with so many good things to watch, like this one for instance. Apparently, Spectral was originally going to come out through Universal Pictures in August 2016, but they changed their minds and transferred the rights to Netflix, who released it in December 2016. I think the way everything turned out was better for the film in the long run. Sci-fi films are a hard sell to audiences in the first place, and this one doesn’t have any “big” names in the cast line-up to help push it. Whereas sitting on Netflix gives it a chance to (slowly) find its audience and let word of mouth from the Netflix junkies (like myself) help its name get around without spending tons of money trying to advertise.
The story that Nic Mathieu, Ian Fried, and George Nolfi came up with is pretty cool. It’s about US forces that are engaging insurgents over a European country of Moldova. During a mission, a soldier gets separated from his team and runs into what appears to be a ghost. Fortunately, the camera goggles the soldier was wearing recorded the event. Soon, more and more sightings of these things are reported, and before long people are wanting answers. The US military brings in Dr. Mark Clyne (Dale), a researcher from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), who invented the goggles the troops use in the field to see if he came explain what these things are and why they can only be seen through the goggles and not by the naked eye.
When you look at the film as a whole it’s actually got a lot of good things going for it. It has an interesting story, good cinematography, killer looking special effects and a strong cast. What really impressed me was I found out this was Mathieu’s feature film debut. For his first outing, I gotta say Mathieu shows some skills as a director by the way he put all these things together.
Unfortunately, as cool as I think the movie is, one of the things that hurt the overall package is the visuals out-shined the story. While the premise of the film is cool, the script gets weak in spots. There are times where the characters are standing around talking and the script gets really simple like they don’t want to lose the audience with “all the big science stuff” that’s going on.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the script looking out for me, but there are too many moments were they over explained and wasted time that could have been used elsewhere in the movie. Even with those moments scattered out, the story was a cool idea and watching everything play-through was pretty entertaining.
The cast is a bit hit and miss. There are a few cast members that were great in their roles, like Max Martini. If you’re doing a film that a needs military character slot filled, Martini is your guy. Sadly, Martini doesn’t have a lot of range when it comes to acting, but his somewhat cold and hard demeanor fit perfect in this one just like it did in the movie 13 Hours and the television show “The Unit.” Emily Mortimer, who’s been in films like Shutter Island and Hugo didn’t impress me this time around.
Mortimer’s character is a CIA officer, and I get she’s supposed to be all secretive and need to know like, but she just comes off flat in the film. Sadly, the few actors that usually bring some skill to the table are barely used in the film, like Bruce Greenwood, Stephen Root or Gonzalo Menendez. James Badge Dale who is the main character, and we get to see the most, is an ok actor but didn’t really sell me on his character. Or the character was just poorly written and that’s what Dale had to work with.
As far as the visuals go, some of the things that helped make this movie look so good were the locations they used. A lot of the filming was done in Budapest, Hungary for the buildings and streets to help get a more authentic look to the scenes. Then throw in the work Peter Jackson’s “Weta Workshop” did making the futuristic looking weapons and special effects, which were seriously cool. The visuals and the special effects were the strongest part of the movie.
Overall, is this the best sci-fi flick I’ve seen? No, but I enjoyed it, plus the special effects and fight scenes make Spectral worth watching.