Review – Overlord

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War as a setting has long been an effective backdrop to tell a cinematic story. Films such as Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket and many more have told incredible war time tales. The struggle and conflict of these time periods seems to be a favorite for many filmmakers to revisit. Set during World War 2 on the eve of D-Day, the new release Overlord puts a new twist on the genre as it depicts a group of American soldiers on a mission behind enemy lines, encountering horrifying Nazi experiments in the process. Directed by Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, this is a war movie that bends history and offers an action/horror experience for the ages.

Overlord is a modern day B movie with the budget to go the distance. It takes a setting that we are all familiar with and injects it with an element of shock and awe. Our protagonists are put up against not only the Third Reich itself but also experimented Nazi soldiers. On paper, this is a truly absurd concept, and in some ways is so in the film. However, it is the serious intent that this movie carries that makes it as fantastic as it is. We grow to care about the main characters first, because we spend time with them before the horror is introduced. Within this, the picture allows us to feel completely immersed in the war time scenario, much like the more standard war films before it. With the stage set and the characters established, the alternative history of Overlord can take place. And it does so with glorious effectiveness.

A movie like this can go very wrong. It can fall into schlock territory very fast and soon your film is just a joke (not in a good way). The crazy aspects of Overlord are used perfectly as they are played straight, for the most part, with only a touch of cheesiness. Scary and violent in many places, the villains are depicted as a terrifying obstacle for our heroes. Any over-the-top elements or scenes are restrained enough to be taken seriously while still being fun and smile inducing at times. The tone is consistent throughout, touching on horror tropes only when it needs to. It is this commitment to a particular direction that makes the picture immensely enjoyable. It is a undoubtedly ludicrous but also believable in a way that positions you right alongside the characters.

The actors playing these characters deliver good performances throughout. Without them, the movie wouldn’t work as well as it does. Jovan Adepo is fantastic as the audience surrogate Ed Boyce, as is Wyatt Russell as tough as nails Corporal Ford. Mathilde Ollivier and John Magaro round out the cast as Chloe and Tibbet, both putting on solid performances. When these individuals stumble into the twisted science projects, you believe what they are experiencing. This is a credit to not only the acting on display but also the grounded nature that the script positions the film in.

Overlord is a wonderful glimpse into an action and terror filled World War 2. Its take on alternative history is tremendously told in a way that is restrained when it needs to be and bonkers when the occasion calls for it. It works on multiple levels as you are left not only connecting with the characters but also thrilled from the action and scared from the horror. Perhaps some may wish that it was more over-the-top, but I feel that would make it a lesser a film. It is a war story, action flick and zombie picture all blended into one perfectly toned movie. This is a release that I enjoyed exceedingly and one that I can confidently say is a highlight of 2018’s cinematic releases.