Looking Back at 2010s Films: Overlord (2018)

29 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

“Overlord” is part wartime drama, part horror flick, part B-monster-movie, and overall entertaining and thrilling as hell–a terrific, energetic, tension-fueled thrill ride that you either accept or you don’t. I accepted every tense, crazy moment of it and had a real good time in the process.

Just look at the premise and tell me if it might be your cup of tea: on the eve of D-Day, a few American soldiers are trapped behind enemy lines and discover secret Nazi experiments. What do they find? Well…Nazi zombies.

Yeah, why not?

It’s like a big-budget b-movie with the right combination of energy and clever filmmaking, and for as over-the-top as it gets (especially towards the final act, when all hell inevitably breaks loose), that’s just part of the fun.

The film opens with a bang as the soldiers are dropped into a French village, where Nazis have a radio tower in a church, which our heroes are sent to destroy. The plane crash and parachuting escape themselves are so intense that it reminded me of two Spielberg moments: the brutal Normandy sequence in “Saving Private Ryan” and the paratrooper’s jump in “Bridge of Spies.” Can you imagine jumping out of a falling plane fired upon by the enemy, and making the jump with all the fire, explosions, gunfire, and debris all around you as you try to parachute and land safely?

The paratrooper we follow is Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo, “Fences”). He joins up with a few others–Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), who takes command; Private Tibbet (John Magaro), our welcomed, trashmouthed comic-relief; and Private Chase (Iain De Caestecker), a photographer. They encounter a young French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who helps them and hides them in the attic of her mother’s house, as they figure out how to continue their mission of blowing up the tower.

Admittedly, the characters are rather underdeveloped, but they’re all played by appealing actors, particularly a sense of innocence given by a likable Jovan Adepo and a commanding presence from the leadership of Wyatt Russell, plus a good mix of obnoxiousness and charisma from a Brooklyn-accented John Magaro–his annoyed interaction with Chloe’s kid brother, who just wants someone to play baseball with, is priceless. But “Overlord” isn’t about character as much as it is about story. What helps is an incredible amount of buildup. We’re already told that the Nazis have some very grisly goings-on in the church, as a French civilian threatens Chloe that “they’ll take [her] to the church” if she’s caught outside past curfew. We also learn that Chloe’s aunt, confined to her bedroom, is ill due to her own experience in the church. We know something is up here, and the mystery makes for intriguing buildup, even if we do know the payoff. The plot thickens as Boyce sneaks inside the church and makes a few odd, twisted discoveries of his own…

This leads to a payoff of pure insane entertainment, as our good old boys go up against the dirty Nazis…some of which are invincible beyond belief, thanks to the experiments.

Much of it is very grisly (and gives the film a deserved R-rating), and much of it, I was surprised to learn, is done with practical effects. There are more practical effects than CGI effects, so that the actors involved can react accordingly. Thus, the audience can react as they do if they’re in the moment as well. There’s a moment involving a broken neck of a reanimated corpse…and that’s all I’ll say about that except that I appreciate the old-school trickery that was used for the effect.

Fans of Bad Robot (the company that produced the film) were disappointed that “Overlord” was not a new “Cloverfield” sequel. I personally didn’t care for that. I was just glad to get the fun movie that I got.

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