“Overlord” showcases the brutal horror of war and the supernatural

Ben Wheeler, Copy Desk

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“Overlord” drops us into the world of WWII on the day before the historic D-Day invasion of Normandy, France. We are introduced to the American protagonists, including Boyce (Jovan Adepo) and Ford (Wyatt Russell) on an aircraft that is part of a larger fleet advancing towards France. Here we learn the soldiers’ mission; infiltrate and destroy a German radio tower that would cripple the Allied forces’ advancement.  The fleet is suddenly hit by German defense fire and the plane is obliterated.

Boyce parachutes into a body of water and struggles to make it to shore to reunite with his few surviving comrades. After the group assesses their situation, they are able to station themselves in a French village under German control with the help of Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a disgruntled French villager.

It is not long until the heroes confront their enemies, and learn of horrifying experiments being conducted on the dead by German military intelligence. The Germans are attempting to synthesize a substance that not only reinvigorates the dead, but also mutates them into “super soldiers” with greatly enhanced strength, unstable aggression and an invulnerability to most wounds and injuries.  

With few options, our group of outnumbered soldiers embark on the ultimate mission; destroy the radio tower while rescuing Chloe’s kidnapped brother, all the while facing the horrors of war, the enhanced living and the mutated undead.

The opening credits premiere with  audio of real-life German and United States WWII propaganda films and conclude with a title card that looks as if it had come straight out of those same films. This opening credit crawl is the introduction to the movie’s amazing sound design.  During the opening scene, bullets constantly make contact with metal of the plane and explosives detonate all around us, seemingly as if the theatre is in the plane alongside the characters. Any time there is action, especially involving heavy gun fire, it feels like you’re right in the middle of the chaos.

Other phenomenal elements of this film were the cinematography and imagery. For a movie that showcases so many horrific circumstances and events, the distant shots and backgrounds of tighter shots are absolutely beautiful to look at. The amount of detail on the military uniforms, weapons and vehicles was something I expected going into the movie, but seeing it on the screen still made my jaw drop. Every scene uses careful attention to detail to draw in the viewer. There is also a cool transition in which flames engulf the screen, and the black underbelly of the fire rises up to cut to a dark night scene.

Various scenes have an intense bass thump that mimics the human heart. Whenever I heard this cue during a scene, I was quickly overcome with the nervousness induced by the spontaneous uptick of the speed of blood flowing through my veins. While the horror theme of the movie isn’t perfect by any means, as it relies mainly on infamous jump scares, overall the build-ups to the more horrific sequences are well paced with big payoffs.

“Overlord” excels in some aspects but also fails in others. Firstly, there are some rough edits. Most notably, there are at least two scenes where characters randomly show up in locations with no explanation as to how they got there. Not only is this jarring, but it also bypasses what could be interesting details.

Secondly, there isn’t much character development, only a few brief explanations or insinuations as to why characters act the way they do are given, and they are given completely though dialogue. Given the circumstances of the story, this lack of knowledge is a realistic detail, but as a cinematic experience it’s also frustrating.

The dialogue ranks as passable-to-solid for the first two acts of the movie, but in the third act it suffers. There are a couple of cringey one-liners thrown out there, and for a movie that isn’t trying to be lighthearted, or showcase a lot of B-movie tropes, these lines feel horribly out of place.

One last minor complaint is a detail concerning the film’s ending. I won’t spoil what happens, but towards the end of the final scene a fairly intense rap song starts playing. I am a big fan of hip-hop, but for a movie that portrayed the time period (especially musically) so well for being a fictional story, the song is a really, really awkward choice.

“Overlord” has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 81 percent, with an Audience score of 76 percent, according to the Rotten Tomatoes official website. This is about where I would rank the film personally: a rough four stars out of five. It has its flaws, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t entertaining in the best ways. It is an action-packed, zombie snarling, gorefest-thrill ride, exactly what I hoped it would be. I absolutely plan on seeing it again, and I highly recommend those reading this review to do the same.

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“Overlord” showcases the brutal horror of war and the supernatural