Review: Overlord

Originally billed as a new entry into the Cloverfield universe, Overlord became its own thing, a World War II/Grindhouse mash-up that is pretty great at both parts.

Set in the hours before D-Day in 1944, a squad of paratroopers are tasked with taking out a vital German radio tower that will allow the troops landing at Normandy to get air support.  The squad is decimated by anti-aircraft fire, leaving only a small group left to try and carry out the mission against a full complement of Nazi troops. The squad manages to get to the small town below the radio tower and slowly realize something disturbing is happening in below the church near the tower.  The trailer played up the crazy, splatter movie aspects of the movie but I was a little surprised at how Overlord is much more of a slow burn. It’s not until about halfway through before you start getting into the weird zombies, Re-Animator serums and magical goop part of the movie. That’s not really a complaint as Overlord functions as an extremely solid World War II action movie that gradually turns into a Grindhouse movie.  The horror aspect is slowly teased in some fantastic visuals, like dead paratroopers hanging from trees in a burning forest or the French village seeming like it would be right at home in a Universal Monster movie. There are some great tension building sequences where the squad has to hide from Nazi troops and the transition into full-on horror is fantastic as our main squad member Boyce (Jovan Adepo) sees the full breadth of the experiments happening in the labs under the church.  In a year that gave us the incredible MI: Fallout skydiving sequence, Overlord also delivers an amazing parachuting sequence that is unlike anything I think I’ve seen as it’s like Boyce has a GoPro or similar camera rig facing toward him and you see the chaos totally from that angle. The military action is great as well and leans into the R rating to show the brutal horrors of war before the supernatural horrors start to appear.

The cast of Overlord is mostly great even if most of them fall into war movie stereotypes.  Wyatt Russell from Black Mirror is great as the battle-hardened Cpl. Ford, who is laser-focused on completing the mission and not getting involved in anything else while Jovan Adepo is extremely sympathetic and likable as Boyce, who is extremely green and reluctant to kill.  Mathilde Ollivier is in the exact same mold as Melanie Laurent from Inglourious Basterds as a bad-ass French civilian who helps take down the Nazis and get some personal revenge and Pilou Asbaek, who chewed scenery as the duplicitous pirate Euron Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, brings that same villainous energy to Nazi Cpt. Wafner, who transforms into a literal monster as the movie progresses.  Bokeem Woodbine also delivers a short but extremely memorable performance as the squad’s sergeant, Eldson.

Overlord is a fantastic and fun mash-up of the World War II action/war genre and gooey, creature-filled grindhouse movies with a likable cast and a brisk pace that keeps things moving and never lets up.  If it didn’t have the horror aspects, it would still be a solid World War II movie but with those aspects, it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of both genres.

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