Wednesday, January 25, 2017

3 Short Paragraphs: Spectral

2016, Nic Mathieu -- Netflix

Moldova is a real country? I thought it was one of those countries made up for movies, when they need a basically westernized country (cities, old technology) but with exotic, Soviet-era look & feel. But no, she's real and I guess that rather than be off-colour by setting this war-based movie in currently forgotten about Ukraine, they chose a close neighbour. Anywayz, the movie starts with American forces fighting in the ruins of a Moldovan city, a new war torn region America is involved in. The soldiers encounter something mysterious and deadly, and we cut back to James Badge Dale, a talented engineer and researcher, currently doing imaging work for DARPA. The encounter in Moldova had an enigmatic, invisible aspect to it. His expertise could be of help.

This movie is all about the Boys With the Toys, the practical effects team going all out in their weapons and tech add-ons. My other personal speculative joy, along with the glass cell phones I have mentioned before, is HUDs for military use. I have spent a lot of time playing FPSs. While much of this movie is your familiar marine team six trying to survive against a ghostly enemy, I got swept along with the tech and the weapon design. And the ghosts, the monsters or Bad Guys, are really decently depicted, something new in the field so often explored by Aliens and Pitch Black and all its lesser copies.

But it wasn't just that, where Kill Command failed on the lazy acting and directing, there is something here. Sometimes I think it's just a genuine joy in the material that shows through, I cannot discount skill. This may be Mathieu's first movie, and it is rough around the edges, his skill does show through. James Badge Dale, who is usually stuck playing soldiers or bad guys, gets to be The Scientist with Skill. This movie is not going to get him any nods, but it does expand his repertoire solidly. I genuinely liked this movie a lot.

P.S. Terrible poster; c'mon guys, I know it was straight to Netlflix, but you could have dished out something more than a thumbnail.