Overlord: A Fully Loaded WWII Splatterfest
From producer J.J. Abrams comes Overlord, an amusingly thrilling, pulse-pounding action film with a few tricks up its sleeve. Part war drama, part zombie thriller, and part Tarantino-esque splatterfest, Overlord is a B-movie executed at an “A” level that offers genre fans a high-octane, turn-your-brain-off fun.
With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that's crucial to the invasion's success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen.
Overlord is one of those films that manages to achieve some notion of freshness though being an amalgam of many familiar things. In many respects, it’s Saving Private Ryan meets Re-Animator with a tinge of The Thing and Day of the Dead, but there’s also many moments when it feels like Inglorious Basterds meets Dusk Til Dawn with zombified super soldiers and the seedy grime of Hostel. There’s also a bit of Hemingway’s For Whom The Bell Tolls squeezed into its premise as well with the US soldiers’ mission to blow up a radio tower.
When it comes to Nazi zombie films, one thing is for sure: the bar here is incredibly low. And Overlord, which is surprisingly well made, manages to vault over the low bar with balls-to-the-wall bravado. If you’re an action lover, it’s hard to resist its amped up charge, which it sustains for pretty much the duration of its runtime; however, due to some cliché, 2D characters (who feel more like caricatures of characters), some stilted acting, and some very, very poor dialogue, I never felt fully immersed, but I did enjoy myself and was never disengaged.
The technical craftsmanship on display here is truly out of sight, and it’s not something you’d inherently expect a film of this type to possess — it really catches you off guard in a pleasant way. Director Julius Avery puts Bad Robots’ money to good use, creating several visually stunning moments, some of which are truly breathtaking, and giving scenes of an adrenaline-pumping sense of visceral tension. With the aid of editor Matt Evans seamlessly assemblage, Overlord never feels uneven and juggles conflicting tones with relative ease.
The main thing that sucks the air out of the film all relates to the script. At times, it feels like screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith are ticking off clichéd war film items as if they’re listed. Some of the characters (like John Magaro’s Brooklyn-accented Tibbit) are downright obnoxious, and others don’t act much like soldiers, but many of the actors manage to wring empathy out of the little they’ve been given. A positive note: I did appreciate the vulnerability of the protagonist, Boyce (played by Jovan Adepo), because it’s something you don’t typically see in war films, and the 180 the film takes briefly when Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell, AKA Snake Plissken Jr.) begins to brutally torture one of the Nazis.
It may not be the perfect film, but its positives outweigh its negatives, and the end result is a lot of gory over-the-top fun. It’s one of those films that you wouldn’t expect to work quite as well as it does, so depending on your expectations, Overlord may surprise the hell out of you.
Recommendation: Fans of excessive gore and viscera, video games, and graphic novels: this is for you.
Rating: 3 super serums outta 5.
What did you think? Were you blown away? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!