Thursday, November 15, 2018

Movie Review: Overlord

Overlord *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Julius Avery.
Written by: Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith.
Starring: Jovan Adepo (Boyce), Wyatt Russell (Ford), Mathilde Ollivier (Chloe), Pilou Asbæk (Wafner), John Magaro (Tibbet), Iain De Caestecker (Chase), Jacob Anderson (Dawson), Dominic Applewhite (Rosenfeld), Gianny Taufer (Paul), Bokeem Woodbine (Rensin), Erich Redman (Dr. Schmidt).
Overlord is a nasty, goofy, gore drenched horror/war film that works best the less you think about it. They film has a relentless pace, and several great set pieces and just keeps chugging along, changing genres at will, and providing a lot of bang for its buck. The film is set during WWII – on D-Day to be precise – and starts out like other war films we’ve seen before. At some point it becomes a horror film, and then morphs into a hybrid of the two genres for its final act. It probably shouldn’t work at all – and yet somehow it all works really well.
The film begins on a plane the night before D-Day. On what will become a bumpy and violent flight, we stick with Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a young black soldier – and our audience surrogate. The men have been told their job – they are to parachute behind enemy lines, find a radio tower on top of a church in a small French village, and take it out before the invasion starts – or else air support won’t be possible. Of course, the plane is shot to hell – and when Boyce lands – after a chaotic fall – he realizes most of his friends. All that’s really left is an explosive expert, Ford (Wyatt Russell) – who none of the rest of them know, wisecracking Tibbet (John Magaro) and Chase (Ian De Casetecker) – who doesn’t have a personality aside from being the guy with the camera. If their odds were bad before they parachuted in, they’re even worse now that there’s only 4 of them. When they get to the small town, things seem even more bleak – the church is even more fortified and guarded then they thought. The only help they’re going to get is from Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) – a beautiful young French woman, who has to protect her younger brother.
The best sequence in the movie comes at about the halfway point – when Boyce suddenly finds himself in the church, alone, stumbling around. When he gets to the basement he sees things – unholy things – and although any sane person would stop investigating the strange noises he hears, or unzipping the seeping bags of viscera he sees – well before he does – it’s still a great sequence as director Julius Avery builds the tension steadily – and knows how to build images to shock.
But it’s hardly alone as being a good set piece in the film. In fact, this film works best during the set pieces, and less well when its actually trying to tell a story of any kind. The opening airdrop sequence is intense and scary and brutal in its violence. There’s a scene where Ford and Boyce have to watch through cracks in the floor as a Nazi captain (Pilou Asbæk) comes into Chloe’s house, and tries to force himself on her. There are scenes in the back half in which various people get injected with a glowing serum the Nazis created – in which the results are not what is expected. And finally, when the climax gets here – the film does an excellent job of doing a kind of classic war movie shootout climax, with various horror movie sequences at the same time.
Overlord is, admittedly, a stupid movie in many ways. It’s best not to think about why some of its characters do some of the things they do – because there really is no reason for them to do them, except the movie needs them to. And yet, the movie moves at such a quick pace, has some many good set pieces, and is basically just so much bloody fun, that I didn’t really mind. I also didn’t really mind the kind of playing with the history Overlord does either – if you’re going to go all out into Nazi science experiments, you may as well go all out, which this film does in pretty much every way. Overlord is trash – but it’s fun trash.

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