Overlord (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: One night before D-Day, a squadron of American paratroopers is dropped into enemy territory, where they unwittingly stumble on a sadistic Nazi experimentation regime.

REVIEW: War is hell. Hell is horrifying. Ipso facto, the hellish horrors of war have always made for an intrinsically linked sub-generic movie mash-up. The kind that, when done as superbly and sure-handedly as Bad Robot’s new supercharged ballistic blitzkrieg called OVERLORD, not only blends the best of both bearings, but nearly demands to join the ranks of such sterling bravo-company as PREDATOR, JACOB’S LADDER, DOG SOLDIERS, and just a small handful of others. Indeed, Julius Avery’s riotous realization of Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith’s exquisite screenplay is both among the sheer most entertaining big-screen horror bonanzas of 2018, as well as the one of the most viscerally indefatigable and sensory-marauding of all war-torn horror films. Scary though? Not so much. In fact, some of the terror comes off as a bit supercilious at times. This admittedly is a damming issue in terms of the horror side of the ledger, but where the film lacks inherent chills it more than makes up for it with its undying spate of inerrant thrills. A few flaws aside, OVERLORD certainly ranks high among the war-horror chain of command!

June 6, 1944. An allied airborne unit is on a mission to drop a dozen or so paratroopers behind enemy lines in France with one mission in mind: destroy a radio tower before the rest of the Allied forces storm the beaches of Normandy in six short hours. On the plane ready to chute is a ragtag legion of Americans including the meek and scrupulous Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), the wise-cracking Tibbet (John Magaro), budding writer Dawson (Jacob Anderson), photographer Chase (Iain De Caestecker), and the most badass of the bunch, Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), who has a rep for knocking out his former CO. In a vividly spectacular and immersive opening sequence in which their plane is shot down before the troops can properly parachute, we instantly identify with Boyce as our main audience surrogate. Touching down, Boyce finds himself in hostile German territory. Ford, Boyce and the others scatter and reunite before meeting a local Parisian girl named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who leads the troops to her small home village. There, a sinister enclave of German patrolmen, lead by the odious Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), keep the village on intense lockdown. Boyce and Chloe begin to forge a tender kinship, especially after Boyce catches a peek at Chloe’s so-called sick auntie, whose slimy, febrile, varicose-vein-bulging hideousness suggests she’s been infected with some kind of super-virus.

So far, what we’ve seen plays extremely credibly and with compelling character driven motivations. Boyce, for instance, is against senseless killing of any kind, but is unwilling to allow Chloe and her little brother Paulie to be mistreated any further. He is the moral compass of the movie, and it’s the tough ethical decisions he’s forced to make even in the murky fog of war that constantly keeps you aligned with his character and onboard with his overall mission. Alas, a bit of a perceptive tradeoff happens around the midway point, when the movie transitions from a veracious war picture to a more overt horror yarn. Boyce stumbles on a French church that’s been turned into a makeshift medical lab, where it turns out the S.S. scientists are working on a potent strain of virus to create the ultimate warrior. When this shift takes place, we’re required to suspend disbelief far more in the second half than the first, even though the intense immediacy of the action amplifies fivefold or so. That is, the movie gets sillier as it un-spools, primarily due to the roaring and howling cartoon caricature of the primary foe, Wafner, who ends up coming off like a gruesomely demented Harvey Dent than the kind of commensurately credible enemy we’d expect given the first half of the film.

Honestly though, it almost doesn’t matter. Either does the poor execution of the ticking clock scenario of the radio-tower mission, one that ends up as a marginal low-pressure afterthought in the end. I’m not sure if that subplot of the story wasn’t prioritized on purpose, but it’s a negligible one regardless. But because the movie is so well crafted and so impressively performed, primarily by young standouts Adepo and Ollivier, and so littered with an unrelenting array of abject gore-sodden violence, it’s easy to overlook the flaws and simply have fun watching all the unremitting mayhem ensue. We’ve got pistols, rifles, machine guns, grenades, bombs, knives, hooks, needles, flamethrowers and the like up against a sick slew of slavering super-zombified-SS-soldiers. This is no doubt where the movie excels most, in its wildly profligate carnage, and probably the primary draw for horror fans in the first place. By this metric the movie succeeds, even if the compelling authenticity of the first half – played as a straight up war picture – is sacrificed in favor of its more ridiculously derivative, albeit hyper-gory, horror morph of the second half.

All things considered – its own merits and how they stack up against movie mash-ups of its own macabre-military ilk – OVERLORD is a damn fine entry in the still under-populated war-horror subcategory. It’s may be a slight rank under the all time classics like PREDATOR, DOG SOLDIERS and JACOB’S LADDER, but by only a single rung or two. With its marvelous opening and closing action sequences, top-tier craftsmanship, well written and authentically played characters (Adepo and Ollivier in particular), and severe salvos of ultra-bloody warfare, OVERLORD more or less achieves it mission!




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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.