Death of the Critic

Spectral - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


All things considered, this probably should have been a really bad movie. It is ostensibly about a group of special forces soldiers fighting against a bunch of ghosts, and that sounds about as B-movie as you can get. But somehow it all managed to come together in a way that really surprised me. They tried to make a hard sci-fi, modern military film, and for the most part, they succeeded.

While certain parts don’t quite make sense to me, and the explanation for the specters is a bit lacking, the core of this movie is solid. The story is one that feels original. Soldiers versus ghosts that isn’t a crappy daytime Sci-Fi channel flick. The effects are excellent, and the general design of the movie is really solid. Most importantly however, they did the explosions right. Realistic explosions have been gaining ground in recent years, and I always have a soft spot for a good dirt throwing, chest thumping, ground shaking explosion. None of that fake fireball stuff, but raw unadulterated power.

If nothing else, this movie captures the feeling of power shown on screen in a way that few can. Hits have impact, bullets are loud, and you feel every thump in your chest. It just feels good to watch.

We follow Dr. Klein to Eastern Europe from DARPA. The goggles that he invented for use by soldiers found something that simply can’t be explained and he needs to investigate. He gets sent into the field with a Delta unit to look for these specters, and he’s accompanied by a cagey CIA agent that is fully convinced that everything can be rationally explained. There isn’t a lot of downtime here before the movie really kicks into action, and once it begins they get the disposable mooks out of the way early to clear the stage for the main characters.


There is actually a fair amount of character building piled on the central characters of the special forces unit. They do a good job at making each character feel like a person and not just a gun toting goon. There are some genuinely great moments of character building here as we see the soldiers interact with their friends and a few civilians they encounter on the way.

The general design of the movie looks great too. The tech looks like something out of Halo with cool suits and guns cobbled together out of spare parts that they could find. The specters look great and there is a scene with a tank that looks as good as anything I’ve seen this year. The slow-mo is gratuitous, but pretty as all hell.

With all that being said, it has it’s flaws. The story feels a bit dumb, as if they had a premise and searched for a way to justify it with science. Besides the core group of people, everyone else feels expendable and some of the justifications that they give are stretches to say the least. It is way better than it has any right to be, but I had really low hopes going in so I was pleasantly surprised. It manages to stand up on its own merits in a way that it never should have.


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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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