Director: Julius Avery
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier
Synopsis: A small group of American soldiers find horror behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Horror
MPAA Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content)
Release Date: November 9, 2018
The war genre is one that thankfully has produced a great share of exemplary films over the years--Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, Hacksaw Ridge, and Fury come to immediate mind as films that successfully displayed the sheer brutality and nature of war and its consequences on the human body, spirit, and mind. While these films were certainly entertaining and even thought provoking at times, one wouldn't consider the experience a "fun ride" post-viewing. Yet, for the first time in my life, I'm willing to use those exact words to describe the latest film to arrive in the genre.
Overlord is a World War 2-based film that meshes fact and fiction and the war and zombie film genres to create a story that largely succeeds in delivering high entertainment value. The plot, which is satisfyingly taut, revolves around a group of soldiers who are tasked with destroying a German radio tower located on top of church. Upon arriving, however, the group discovers the Nazis are conducting heinous experiments on humans to determine the limit of their physical capability and thus must determine how to proceed with their mission.
The film succeeds in large part due to the surprisingly charismatic group of soldiers, who possess palpable chemistry in the vein of Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds or David Ayer's Fury while regularly delivering laughs that starkly contrast the atrocities happening to the victims inside the Nazi laboratories. And this is where the film toes a delicate line--it uses abominable historical events to please zombie lovers, delivering loads of over-the-top violence that includes disjointed bodies, protruding bones, and copious amounts of blood. All of this is shameless fan service, and while some will undoubtedly find it pleasing, others (like myself) will balk at it.
Despite its excessive violence, the film backs it up with an engaging and well-paced story that packs surprises and tension along the way. The story also, much like Fury, manages to capture the heart-breaking essence of the innocent in war through Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) and her eight-year-old son Paul (Gianny Taufer), both helplessly living in a Nazi-controlled village. Just like Fury, it's through these characters that our heroes retain their humanity and sense of decency, as they try to protect them while still fulfilling their mission.
Overlord makes an incredibly risky move in blending a historical war film and the zombie genre in an attempt to please both sides, and surprisingly it largely succeeds even while still remaining controversial. The film possesses highly enjoyable characters and humor, a tightly woven story, strong action sequences and sharp visual effects and makeup work--which may even receive some recognition from the Academy. While certainly not up to par with the likes of the aforementioned war films, Overlord still stands out due to its uniqueness and bold agenda, which is something to admire in its own right.
Written by Anthony Watkins, November 17, 2018