Dan's Review: "Overlord" mixes history with horror fantasy
Nov 10, 2018 01:20PM
● By Dan Metcalf
Jovan Adepo in Overlord - © 2018 Paramount Pictures.
Rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content.
Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, Jacob Anderson, Iain De Caestecker, Bokeem Woodbine, Éva Magyar, Erich Redman.
Written by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith.
Directed by Julius Avery.
When fantasy horror meets history, things can get messy. Julius Avery’s new movie Overlord is a fine example of what happens in a mash-up between the very real events of World War II and the folks who conceived the Cloverfield movies. It’s important to emphasize the “fantasy” aspect of the movie since it relies heavily on the suspension of reality.
The movie begins with a group a paratroopers flying over the English Channel on June 6, 1944 (D-Day) with a very important mission: to drop behind enemy lines to a village to destroy a radio-jamming tower operated by the Nazis. Most of the platoon is killed by enemy fire during the drop, but the few survivors band together to complete the mission. One of the soldiers is Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), an African-American soldier with an apprehension for killing. The ranking soldier among the survivors is Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), a veteran of North Africa, and explosives expert. As Ford, Boyce and a few other soldiers move forward with the plan to blow up the tower, they encounter Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a local resistance fighter who lives in the town with her little brother (Gianny Taufer) and ailing aunt (who is grotesquely disfigured from some sort of Nazi “experiments.” The soldiers take refuge in Chloe’s home, but their peace is soon disturbed by Captain Wafner (Pilou Asbæk), a brutal man who frequently takes advantage of Chloe. The soldiers take Wafner captive and during a reconnaissance mission, Boyce gets taken inside the Nazi complex beneath the church where the radio tower is located. He soon discovers a sinister operation involving the making of a serum that transforms dead people into “super-soldiers,” although they haven’t yet tested it on living subjects. Boyce escapes an heads back to Chloe’s house with a syringe of the serum, where Ford has beaten Wafner to a pulp to extract tactical information about the base. While trying to move Wafner, he wriggles free from Private Chase (Iain De Caestecker), grabs his guns and shoots the American dead. As Wafner makes his way back the Nazi Base, Boyce injects Chase with the serum in hopes of reviving him. Well, it “works” but the resulting side effects turn Chase into a killing monster, and his buddies are forced to “put him down” in the most gruesome manner. After getting back to the base, Wafner injects himself with the serum, which transforms him into an even more dangerous monster. Boyce, Ford, Chloe and the other remaining soldiers must battle with Wafner, other monster soldiers and the Nazi troops to blow up the tower in time to allow the D-Day invasion to go forward, and destroy the entire base to prevent the advance of the genetically-altered super soldiers.
Overlord is a well-made horror movie, with all kinds of creepy scares, imaginative makeup and special effects, and good faith-effort from a talented cast.
That said, I have a few qualms about the mixing of fantasy horror and real events like D-Day, which was a bloody and horrific event to begin with, with actual Nazi monstrosity. Relegating such important events to fodder for cartoonish violence and gore cheapens the sacrifice paid by soldiers and civilians who lived through the “real thing.” I’d have no problem if Overlord were presented as an “alternate universe” but inserting such a far-fetched fantasy into D-Day feels a little inappropriate. I feel the same about video games (like the popular “Wolfenstein” series) that exploit Nazism as something less than real. Such is evil is very real, and it’s not a cartoon.
If you can look past such issues and enjoy a good bloodfest, Overlord may be exactly what you’re looking for. If you aren’t into scary images, lots of blood and mangled bodies, it may not be your thing.