Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Pilou Asbæk
Running time: 110 minutes
On the eve of D-Day, a team of American soldiers land in rural France tasked with destroying a German radio tower built in an old village church. Danger lurks at every turn, but none more so than the terrifying reality of what really goes on within the church’s four walls…
If you thought Overlord was going to be a no-holds bar, wonderfully nonsensical gore fest, then you’d be right.
Produced by BNOHC (big name on Hollywood campus) J.J. Abrams and directed by Julius Avery – the man rumoured to be at the helm of a Flash Gordon remake – Overlord is a B-Movie horror fan’s wet dream.
Locking and loading its frenetic action-horror via an assured and explosive opening set-piece, before pummelling us with both barrels of 80’s video nasty throwbacks, Overlord follows a troupe of US troops as they parachute into Nazi occupied France who quickly discover that something very sinister is happening in the basement of an old church. Think dimly lit laboratories, experiments by crazy Nazi Doctors, and an army of zombies on steroids.
Within the ranks there’s Ford (Russell) – a stern, stoic, take-no-shits Corporal committed only to completing the mission at hand; Chase (Iain De Caestecker) – a paratrooper who also happens to pretty sharp with a camera, but very little else; Tibbet (Magaro) – a wise-cracking sniper; and, finally, Boyce (Adepo) – a meek, compassionate Private who, quite literally, wouldn’t harm a mouse. Between them we have all the conventional character bases covered.
It’s a refreshingly trimmed cast list, and a sensible choice from screenwriter Billy Ray that allows each of them ample screen time, even though, inevitably, not everyone will see it through to the credits. It also enables Avery’s film to remain slick and largely contained – without the need for exposition or even explanation – so he can truly go overboard with the brutality, the bloodshed, and the blowing absolutely everything up.
It’s a combination of conventions that works well. After all, the war film and the horror film have always been distant relatives – war is horror just as horror is war. And, with Overlord, genre lines are crossed just as enemy lines are crossed; however, the merciless immorality during times of conflict – and the men who embrace it – hangs heavy over the film, even when the bones start a’breaking, and the red stuff starts a’splattering every which way. Yes, even here the Americans do bad things; but, of course, the Germans do badder things.
But Overlord’s greatest ingredient is also its simplest. This is a film that categorically understands what it is and, more importantly, what it isn’t. Not once does it try to overcome its own limitations, but instead embraces them to joyously grisly effect. The dialogue is hardly profound – “How does it feel? To have the blood of eternity running through your veins?” hisses a scenery-chomping Pilou Asbæk; “Not that fucking great” is the response – and Avery’s message to his audience is loud and clear: squeal, wince, but have a great time.
And, if you can overlook a couple of glaring plot holes, then you certainly will. Adepo’s Boyce might be the beating heart of righteousness that keeps the film together; but Overlord is, above all, gruesome, chaotic, kinetic fun. Although it might put you off your dinner for a while.
Bish, bash, bosh. Overlord is real good, wholesome, gory nosh.