As anyone who’s read even just a few of my past movie scribbles can attest…I’m a sucker for a good WW2 flick. And, it just so happens, that I’m also a fan of weird freaky Cronenbergian body-horror type shit too, so when I first heard murmurings of this flick’s existence, I was intrigued right off the bat. It also helped that JJ Abrams’ company Bad Robot was operating behind the scenes and I’ve been fairly impressed with their / his output. So, on a crisp yet bright Sunday afternoon, my buddy and I ambled on down to the local cinema house to check out what strange and wonderful horrors this little flick may have in store for us.
Overlord opens, after a very cool, period-specific title sequence (loved the old-school copyright stamp beneath!), with a group of American paratroopers in a C-47 on their way to their behind-enemy-lines targets the night before D-Day (June 6, 1944). In the mess of troopers, we meet ‘Boyce’ (Jovan Adepo), a conspicuously black trooper (though this is never brought up) who is dealing with the understandable stress of the situation. In short order, they are lit up by intense anti-aircraft fire and the drop is reduced to fiery chaos and confusion, and ‘Boyce’ barely escapes. Once on the ground, he teams up with a rag-tag group of survivors from his squad, including the ranking officer ‘Ford’ (Wyatt Russell), a demolition expert new to the group, and they make their way to their objective; a communications tower that needs to be taken out to clear a path for the fast approaching Allied forces. In pursuing this agenda, they come across a small village nearby that’s being held in the sadistic grip of the local Nazi commander. They also meet a Resistance contact, ‘Chloe’ (Mathilde Olivier), who’s family is under direct threat from the Germans. As the Americans muster up a mission plan, they begin to notice odd and unsettling things about their target, namely the grotesque experiments being performed on the townsfolk in the underground bowels below the communication tower. With time running out, they set out to save ‘Chloe’s younger brother while also taking the strategic location down in spectacular fashion.
My buddy and I got exactly what we wanted from Overlord, I’m happy to report. It was a fun, unapologetically R-Rated War / Horror flick of a quality that we just don’t get enough of these days. The war sequences were solid, especially the opening disastrous parachute insertion and there was a couple moments where I was genuinely tensed up and smiling like an idiot in the darkness. I was saying to my buddy on our stroll back that I appreciated that they opted to treat the first 3rd of the 109 minute run-time as a serious WW2 film, with the fantastical and horrific elements emerging gradually as the story played out. Which brings me to the pacing. I love it when movies find their stride and editing / pacing seems to work effortlessly. I was very happy with how Overlord doled out information at an easy-to-follow pace, while also getting right to the fucking point. I also appreciated the use of gruesome and intricate on-set prosthetic effects and make-up, along with a healthy serving of actual blood-packs, not the CG bullshit we get stuck with too often these days. From a technical perspective, this flick looks good and sounds great! This will end up being one of those Blu rays that people end up using to test surround sound systems (I know I will!). The gunfire and explosions were meaty and full of *Oomph!*, and it sounded awesome! The cast is perfectly fine and all did what they needed to do to tell this story. The one that I was curious about was Wyatt Russell, son of the God-Among-Men that is Kurt muthafucking Russell, as I wanted to see how far the apple fell from the tree. Wyatt was…fine. Looking at him, you can definitely see RJ Macready / ‘Snake’ Plisskon / Jack Burton DNA in there, with the strong jaw and distinctive mouth, but some of his line deliveries were a little wooden and forced. Not awfully, but noticeably. His dad’s natural and effortless charisma wasn’t there, even if the familiar vocal inflections were present. But for one of his first ‘leading’ roles…not bad. The ‘Russell / Hawn’ potential is there, it just needs the right guidance in the right project. Overlord is a perfectly acceptable start for Wyatt. Oh, and there was a kid in the cast who, amazingly, didn’t piss me off by being just another shit-head child actor. This little tyke knew what he was doing and brought a believable physicality to the role. So there’s also that.
There isn’t much for me to bitch about, as I’m sure you can tell…but there is definitely one thing that immediately got under me skin and that was the fucking shitty rap track that kicks off the final credits. WTF?!! WHY?!! After how happy I was with the movie, to have this juvenile shit ‘music’ kick in, you know…for the kids…almost cheapened all that had preceded it. ALMOST. Luckily, the movie pulls it together as well as it does, so this moronic Lowest Common Denominator crap can be easily dismissed. But again…why?
All in all, I (and my buddy) got what we wanted from Overlord and that was a well-paced WW2 thriller that hit you with an upper-cut from the get-go and didn’t really let up till the end, ramping up the outlandish horror and grotesqueness as it went. Sure, it could’ve benefited from a little added exposition, and more emphasis on tension and atmosphere, but it easily made up for those with hard-hitting action in the form of numerous bloody shoot-outs, bone-crunching fist-fights and violent explosions. If you’re an Action or Horror Movie Fan, especially the ones that don’t ‘hold back’, while keeping things narratively simple, then Overlord is a safe, gore-splattered bet for you! While I could see this being a cool time in 3D, we only saw the 2D showing (not even sure there’s a 3D version out there) and it was perfectly fine. While I definitely recommend this for a Blu ray or streaming presentation, if you have an itch to hit The Big Screen for some good ole fashioned escapism, I would easily push you in Overlord’s direction…it’s a gruesome good time!