Anyone who has seen Band of Brothers will likely experience the oddest sense of deja vu when watching Paramount and Bad Robot’s Overlord.
It starts, once more, on D-Day, following the 101st Airborne as they fly in to invade France. Once again, everything goes wrong, the flak is far more intense than expected and the troopers are forced to bail out early as their plane is hit, ending up scattered all over the place and trying to regroup to carry out their objectives. Despite their best efforts to find more of their comrades, only four of the soldiers arrive at the target and they soon find that there is far more going on here than they expected and that the German garrison is up to something in their compound within the church; something that could change the course of the war if they succeed.
Jovan Adepo stars as Boyce, Wyatt Russell as the taciturn explosives expert Ford, John Magaro as the sarcastic, cynical trooper Tibbet, Iain De Caestecker as war photographer Chase and Mathilde Ollivier as Chloe, a civilian who hides the troopers in her home. The main character here is Boyce and it’s his story we follow through the movie. He is a somewhat unwilling soldier who struggles to earn the respect of his fellow troopers and is seen as simply not cut out for the soldiering life.
Any comparisons to Band of Brothers – and even Saving Private Ryan – are definitely meant as a compliment. The opening scenes are a terrifying, confusing assault on the senses, just as it must have been for those brave souls dropping into France, not sure what awaited them on the ground. Jovan Adepo does a superb job of communicating what it must have been like for those folks called up just a scant few months before D-Day. They were not career soldiers, they were just regular folks thrown into battle, as green as the grass in their yards back home.
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Overlord is a difficult film to pigeon-hole. While there are horrific parts to it, and the latter half of the film definitely slants far more towards the horror genre, it still feels like a war movie first and foremost. It’s more Saving Private Ryan than The Bunker, where the war aspect and the soldiering parts are emphasised over the horror. That said, horror fans will not be disappointed. There’s enough visceral, gory scenes to satisfy even the most jaded of genre fans with some beautiful practical make-up effects on display, although there were a handful of scenes where the VFX were a little jarring and tried to pull the audience from the moment, but they’re easily overlooked.
Director Julius Avery has done only one other feature film before Overlord, called Son of a Gun, released back in 2014, along with a number of short films before that. This is most definitely a step up into the big leagues. Slated to direct the Flash Gordon reboot, Overlord is a statement of intent for what he is capable of. Soundtrack duties fell to Jed Kurzel, who also gave us the stonking soundtracks to the 2015 version of Macbeth and Alien: Covenant.
Some mild spoilers below. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything more about the plot.
Overlord is a solid entry into the horror genre, but treads no real new ground. The whole concept of the German supersoldier/immortal soldier/nazi zombies has been done by many other films before now (see Outpost, Dead Snow, Frankenstein’s Army, Blood Creek, Captain America, Iron Sky) so there’s no real surprises here. But what we do have is well presented, well executed and will certainly never leave you feeling bored as the tension is slowly ratcheted up and the audience is slowly drip fed hints and flashes of horrible things going on beneath that church.
A familiar story, but still well worth a watch.