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I make that opening claim because if you hadn't seen the trailer, you wouldn't know of the dual-genre nature of Overlord. The genre shift to full-blown 'zombies-but-not-quite' action comes after 75 minutes of truly brilliant wartime drama with some moderate scares. The opening scenes of the paratroopers entrance to the war-torn French countryside is a particular highlight for its chaotic, intense and disorientating depiction of what it must've been like for those who did the deed for real in WW2.
The horror element begins to build early on but is never an indication of the upcoming genre shift (if you've not seen the trailer, at least) until the point (From Dusk to Dawn style) where it's made clear that we're not in Kansas anymore. The only bummer I can think of is the film falls into the trap of a predictable final 30 minutes. With all the enjoyment had before then, it's so disappointing to feel let down at the last hurdle.
The soundtrack is immense, the cinematography is brooding without being dark (a style which works for both of the film's genres), and the CGI special effects are affectingly convincing. Don't expect great things from the script (which includes several awful one-liner comebacks), but I think this film will go down as one of the great zombie films of recent years, and may even be noted for its even better turn as a war film.
Best quote: "What is this?!" - "Our greatest achievement. With it, we create super-Nazis; a thousand year army and it's thousand year soldiers."
And "Overlord" nearly perfect in assembling those pieces of a Nazi zombie horror movies into one single story. The plot is simple, action-packed and has it all: lots of fighting, shootings, machine guns and flamethrowers. The characters are schematic, almost one-dimensional, because it's not WWII drama, and that's enough. The SFX are great, there's a lot of blood and guts here, exactly what one can expect from a film which involves Nazis, experiments with (un)dead, and covert military operation.
However, there's some minor but annoying mistakes in presentation of some important plot elements, which hard to left unnoticed. Perhaps the most striking example of such retroactive anti-militaristic message is when Cpl. Ford decides to stop Nazis once and for all near the end of the film: his attitude looks a bit anachronistic in 1940s and such views for an U.S. soldier were much more credible rather after Vietnam War than during the WWII. There's also a very implausible fight between two main characters before the final onslaught, which looks ridiculous within the context of the upcoming Overlord operation.
But it all can easily be put aside, because "Overlord" is the Nazispoltation at its best: dark, bloody, action-driven horror about zombie soldiers trying to take over the world. Take it for what it is, and have fun.
First things first: don't you dare miss this one! I never expected to be as entertained and constantly at edge as I felt throughout this film. J.J. Abrams has a tremendous production capability, and Overlord proves it. It incorporates every genre that you can remember of in an almost seamlessly process. I guess I'll start with the beginning since the first 20-30 minutes provide one of the best opening sequences of the last few years.
Overlord is definitely a war movie, and its foundations are actually based on true stories from WWII. Obviously, being J.J. Abrams a sci-fi master, he stretches those stories a bit so we can have a brilliant rollercoaster of genres. Mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, drama, comedy, war, action, ... I mean, every genre that you can think of (well, I guess musical can be excluded) is present in this film, some more than others.
Usually, that is not a good sign because it's extremely hard to balance two/three tones or genres, let alone a whole bunch of them. That said, Julius Avery is one hell of a director! He and his writers were able to mix everything up and still make a cohesive and even claustrophobic movie since it's pretty much one-location after that opening act. Let's go genre by genre ...
War: the best depiction of what a war looks and SOUNDS like since Dunkirk. I watched this on IMAX, and the sound design is unbelievable. I could feel every bullet flying through, and the CGI is eyegasmic. That opening scene with the military flying over the "battlefield" is visually jaw-dropping, and the score elevates the tension by being extremely powerful. Chills all over my body.
Sci-fi/Mystery/Thriller: even though the premise pretty much explains what the Nazis are doing in their medical experiments, the way that Mark L. Smith and Billy Ray structure the film's narrative and write the dialogues is remarkable. Every exposition scene feels natural and rich from a storytelling perspective. It doesn't improve the mystery itself, but it sure helps the audience to navigate through the story.
Horror: it relies on predictable yet effective jump scares, but the "monsters" are very well "designed." With a mix of CGI and makeup, every single scene involving these human experiments is nail-biting great. Whether that's a chasing or fight sequence, or merely a suspense moment where we can't really see the entire human body, the horror vibe is excellently implemented.
Comedy: such a heavy and bloody R-rated flick, needs some sort of relief. Comedy isn't precisely a predominant genre, but John Magaro's character carries an important role. You might be thinking "bah, he is just a bland comic relief character with no decent development," but you're wrong. Tibbet is extremely well-developed! He simply has a funny personality, and he does banter a lot, but throughout the movie, he keeps evolving as a character and ultimately surprises us in the third act. I also love Iain De Caestecker (Chase), and I congratulate him on finally getting a role in a big film!
Drama: Jovan Adepo (Boyce), Wyatt Russell (Ford) and Mathilde Ollivier (Chloe) are what I would call the movie's protagonists. They are the ones that carry most of the story. Adepo is the lead, and he is fantastic, as well as his two counterparts. However, it's due to the amazing characters' scripts that they are able to shine. Every single character in the film (well, except the Nazis, obviously) has a script meant for the audience to care about them.
Every death has an impact, either on the audience or the other characters. There's a ton of ethical dilemmas throughout their mission, and these three are always arguing with each other since everyone thinks differently. Their dialogues are very captivating, and they undoubtedly improve the screenplay. I rarely blinked due to the high level of entertainment and excitement. Story and character-wise, this is one of 2018's best. Pure entertainment AND well-written characters? Count me in!
However, it doesn't end up here. Technically, this movie is impressive and magnificent. I genuinely had my heart pumping hard after that opening sequence (am I repeating myself too much?). The score is intensely sumptuous, the cinematography is impeccable, and the visual effects are out of this world. The action stunts (chases and fights) are so realistic that you can feel every punch, kick, bullet and explosion like you were there.
Julius Avery works the camera in such a mind-blowing way. Even though some scenes require massive CGI, he still produces some one-take wonders. From Boyce jumping from the plane to him running away from explosions going off closer and closer, Avery sure knows his craft of filmmaking. I wanted to give this film an A+ so much, but I can't. I have one and one only minor issue that I can't just ignore.
I wrote above that it mixes each genre ALMOST perfectly ... Midway through the second act, I noticed that this movie wasn't going to escape the fact that it tries to tackle too many genres and tonally, it lacks a bit of balance. Going from such an intense opening act to a more slow-paced and dramatic story is a big downstep entertainment-wise. Even when the action returns, it's a totally different type of war action. Throughout the film, I felt like wanting a bit of "that" when there was too much of "this" and a bit of "this" when there was too much of "that."
Nevertheless, Overlord is one of my favorite movies of 2018, and it's going to make my life hard at the end of the year, organizing my Top10. It's a brilliantly structured story filled with remarkably well-developed characters and a phenomenal cast, led by Jovan Adepo. Julius Avery provides a captivating and intense rollercoaster of genres and tones, delivering a film with very different levels of entertainment due to the many styles present. His filmmaking craft is mind-blowing, and J.J. Abrams' production is visually stunning, at least. Watch it on IMAX so you can feel how powerful and intense the sound design is. You'll be captivated from the first to the last second. Enjoy it!
Happily, Australia helmer Julius Avery directs this war picture with enough gusto and grenades to make the grade. The opening scene aboard a C-47 transport plane flying our heroes into German-occupied France on the eve of the Allied D-Day invasion evokes memories of "Saving Private Ryan" as German anti-aircraft batteries blast the bejesus out of the fuselage. Most of the outfit dies horribly while the guys who were still alive had to scramble to jump as the engines of the plane burst into flames. Avery and his scenarists do a competent job of fleshing out their characters. Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell of "Everybody Wants Some") isn't a part of the unit that wings its way into France. He has a record of insubordination and doesn't make friends easily because--as he points out to another gullible soldier: "Friends die." Ultimately, he carries out his mission. Along the way, he takes one hell of a beating, after his buddies and he enter a church that the Germans are using not only to conduct their nefarious experiments but also a house a powerful radio transmitter. This strategic transmitter could hamper American planes flying air support for the invasion. Consequently, Ford and five surviving paratroopers contend with a Nazi-stronghold established in a church. Raw recruit Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo of "Fences") finds a way into the heavily fortified church; he rides into the church aboard a truck heaped with corpses. Luckily, he sneaks into the church without arousing attention and then rescues one of his fellow paratroopers, Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite of "Les Misérables"), who the enemy had promptly captured no sooner than he had landed and had prepared for those hellish experiments. Initially, odious German commanding officer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk of "Ghost in the Shell") doesn't know what the experiments are about, despite having rounded up several innocent French men and women to serve as guinea pigs. He has enraged a pretty slip of a French girl, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier of "The Misfortunes of François Jane"), because his men took her aunt and subjected her to those dreadful Nazi doctors. She winds up helping Corporal Ford and Private Boyce as they set about to blow up the German radio tower.
Altogether, "Overlord" ranks as borderline tolerable action movie, but nowhere as entertaining as it could have been with humor laden over the violence.
For a basic plot summary, "Overlord" begins as a traditional WWII flick. On the eve of D-Day, a group of American soldiers parachute into France to knock out a Nazi radio tower located at a strategic church position. Led by Ford (Wyatt Russell) and nominally focusing on young Boyce (Jovan Adepo), the small group enlist the help of French native Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) to get them to the tower. What they find inside, however, is far more strange and horrific than a radio control base.
What's a little humorous to me about "Overlord" is that even in trying to make a "zombie WWII" action/adventure piece, Bad Robot can't help but instill its own formula into the proceedings. The characters here are given quite awhile to develop (sometimes mores than even traditional WWII dramas!), and it isn't until the final third of the film where viewers are given the Nazi zombie shoot-em-up promised by the trailers. The "mystery box" is opened wide eventually, but the fact that it exists at all in this genre is interesting. These are all things that made me enjoy the experience more than the genre would usually appeal to my cinema tastes.
Only helping matters is that some of the more "peripheral" aspects of the film are very supportive of the main plots/characters. The makeup effects are incredible, a few camera shots really stand out, and the atmosphere as the weirdness cranks up in that final third is legitimately creepy. I can't particularly say that the acting was all that great (or noticeable) apart from Adepo's standout performance, but such depth probably wouldn't be supported by this type of filmmaking style anyway.
About the closest comp I can give is playing Wolfenstein 3D on my PC back in the early 90s! It's a war/sci-fi mashup, and that combination probably isn't going to shoot to the top of any charts. Considering that "Overlord" is the first rated-R effort from Bad Robot, I'd have to consider it a success. Personally, I'll always be more drawn to the more mysterious Cloverfield-type fare, but this one indeed kept me entertained all the way through (something that, say, a James Bond film doesn't necessarily even do these days).
Nearing D-Day, American soldiers are being flown into the battlefield. After their plane is shot down, they form an unlikely ally, while one of them begins to discover that the Nazis have been kidnapping Americans and experimenting on them in bizarre ways. This movie asks a lot of you throughout the second and third acts, as it sets it up as a war film, but pulls the rug out from under you as the movie progresses. As I mentioned, this film is part war, part sci-fi, and part horror, and those genres surprisingly blend together very well and this movie never keeps you waiting. The pacing of this film is easily the aspect that stood out the most to me.
A premise like this can easily be chuckled at, but the fact that it begins as a war film, turns into a sci-fi film, and ends up being a horror movie, makes for a very interesting experience. From the second this film started, I felt riveted. Whether you're into an action sequence, a comedy bit, or on the edge of your seat to see who will make it out alive, there's absolutely no downtime. I'm not saying some movies don't need or deserve to be three hours long, but this is a perfect example of a film that utilizes the perfect amount of time needed to tell its story. Giving just the right amount of characters development to most of the crew, just the right amount of horror to not turn off the action junkies who just came for that, and hardly any drawn-out scenes of characters conversing, at 105 minutes, there isn't a single moment where you can take a break and then come back, not having missed something.
Although Julius Avery does a very solid job in terms of direction, it's the combination of a tight script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith and the frenetic editing by Matt Evans that truly shine here. To me, the overall outcome of the pacing of this film originated with those two elements. On top of that, you have a great cast to keep your audience engaged. While I haven't heard of many of these performers in the past, I can see them receiving quite a few jobs in the near future. For what this film was trying to be, I really can't find many things to complain about here.
In the end, Overlord shocked me with how much I actually enjoyed it. The premise itself should make for a bad On Demand release that most people would forget about, but there's a lot of effort put into this movie. The overall story itself may be its biggest issue, due to the fact that there are flaws within the plans of what the Nazis are plotting, but that was a minor nitpick in the grand scheme of things. Personally, I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish and I highly recommend this movie to those who can handle the three genres of war, sci-fi, and horror. Overlord is tightly paced and full of energy.
Overlord is exactly the kind of film you'd expect to see in the early 80's in the naughtier section of the video store. A WWII-set, Science-Fiction blood binge made for midnight viewings... or at least, that was the intention. Overlord, the actual film, has trouble expressing itself in this way. At times it takes itself too seriously. Other times, it goes for the gross out moment, but never takes it far enough. Overlord seems to be afraid of it's own shadow. It should've been more outrageous, more shameless and more hard-R that it is here. A worth while effort, and far from a cheap cinematic affair, but not satisfying.
Don't get me wrong, the movie looks good. The visuals, the sounds, the characters were great. They kept the story simple whitch i have no problem with. The movie started great and had a slow moment after that as it should be, but i expected to see some kind of 'zombies' after a while. To be fair, you don't see much of the 'zombies' but what you see, is great. The movie isn't scary at all, nor gory or anything you would expect of a horror movie but it had a lot of potential te be one. Maybe they kept it that way to attract a broader audience.
If the intention was a just a WOII movie with a twist...alright i can live with that, it was entertaining. If you expect to see a horror, you will be let down.
If you can appreciate B movie that full of blood and somehow funny gore scenes, this is one masterpiece you would love.
The beginning scene is probably the most immersive experience I've ever had, better that Pan Pacific. Go see the 4DX or IMAX version if you can.