Sunday, 31 January 2021

Movie Review: Overlord (2018)

An action-horror war movie, Overlord juices B-movie spirit with a good budget. The result is a classic World War Two mission enlivened by science-gone-mad nonsense, close-up violence, gore and over-the-top heroics. 

Just ahead of D-Day, a squadron of 1st Airborne paratroopers is decimated during a harrowing under-fire flight over France. The cerebral Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), hard-as-nails Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), photography-loving Private Chase (Iain De Caestecker) and talkative sniper Private Tibbett (John Magaro) survive the drop behind enemy lines. Their mission is to destroy a German communications hub hidden in a church in the village of Cielblanc.

The soldiers shelter at the house of resistance-sympathizer Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) and they soon tangle with local German commander Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbæk). Boyce then stumbles into the basement of the target church and finds a gory lab, where the Nazis are conducting experiments with a human reanimation serum to bring the dead back to life and provide the resultant zombies with superhuman strength. In the few remaining hours before the Normandy invasion starts, the American soldiers must now find a way to fulfil the original mission and destroy the house of horrors.

The first half of Overlord is traditionally familiar. After an impressively staged and CGI-enlivened airdrop from hell, a small group of soldiers gather themselves up and despite their losses, decide to proceed with a difficult infiltration and sabotage mission. So far, so ordinary, director Julius Avery covering the usual angles, introducing typical character types and perforating the team with a few well-placed early expirations (watch the land mines!).

But the second half turns towards weird and draws direct inspiration from the seminal video game Castle Wolfenstein. The nefarious Nazis have an evil doctor in the house, the soil in France apparently contains a tar that, once recycled through the human body, can be used to create an awaken-from-the-dead serum. The technology is not yet perfect, of course, and there are kinks to work out, but the zombies possess enough strengths and smarts to unleash good mayhem on a grand scale.

The script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith keeps the tone relatively serious. Other than the usual soldier repartee, Boyce and Ford stick to their game faces and get on with the job of combating evil. The characters are comfortably one-dimensional, and the cast of relative unknowns stoically go about their business, each getting a scene or two to shine before most of them expire in suitably epic blood-soaked fashion. Wyatt Russell makes a good impression as a combat-hardened bruiser.

Sincere about silliness, Overlord blasts its way to senseless satisfaction.



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