Overlord packs quite a punch – it’s a tense, violent, and crazy hour and forty-nine minutes. Mostly, it’s a ton of fun, and the decision to move it away from the constant onslaught of blockbusters that came out this summer helps it not have to fight for attention at the movie theater. If you like war dramas, you’ll dig it. If you like horror movies, you’ll dig it. If you like both, you’ll really dig it.
Set in France during the peak of World War II, Overlord tells the story of private Boyce (a brilliant Jovan Adepo) and his team of American soldiers who are tossed into the horrors of war. The squad hops out of a burning plane straight into enemy territory; a small French village occupied by the Nazis. With the help of local villager Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), they have to stay out of sight and find a way to take down a command center located inside of the nearby church. Easier said than done, and it doesn’t help that underneath the church lies a laboratory where insidious experiments are being performed on the villagers.
What Overlord really gets right is its ability to truly thrill. Almost every single moment is fraught with tension; war is kinda stressful, and you’ll feel kinda stressed just watching it. Director Julius Avery wisely shows every moment almost exclusively from Boyce’s point of view, repeatedly giving the audience long, nerve-wracking takes filled with nothing but the soldier’s heavy breathing. The opening ten minutes are nothing short of insanity, highlighting how easily, quickly and violently things can go haywire in the midst of combat. You’re immediately sucked in, the film successfully grabs your attention right away and dares you to try and look away.
Sadly, no other sequences in Overlord are able to match the quality and intensity of its opening, but later scenes still find different ways to keep you on the edge of your seat. A Nazi officer barges into Chloe’s home and begins grilling her in a scene that is reminiscent of the opening of Inglourious Basterds, complete with the dragging sense of dread that he’ll find exactly what he’s looking for. Boyce stumbles upon the terrifying Nazi lab filled with different displays of bodily horror. The thrills are numerous and gripping, so much so that the film feels like it flies right on by. Thankfully, there’s still plenty that’ll stick with you.
The film does occasionally veer off into becoming cheesy; a few moments of dialogue just don’t land well on paper or in delivery. It’s mostly kept to a minimum though, and there’s no weakness to be found in the performance of the film’s star, Jovan Adepo. Coming off of appearances in Fences, Mother! and Jack Ryan, Adepo easily slides into the role of leading man. Boyce is young and too soft for the trials of war – his squad tells the tale of how he wasn’t even able to kill a mouse at boot camp. Adepo expertly plays someone who is confident and capable but wholly unprepared for the horror and destruction that he inevitably has to witness. The only way this movie works is by Adepo being able to completely sell legitimate shock, terror and extreme stress, and he delivers. Boyce goes through hell and back throughout the course of the film, and he wears it all on his face.
Did I mention that there are zombies in this movie? There are, and they’re pretty terrifying. Significantly more frightening than the zombies of say, The Walking Dead, these poor souls are the villagers that the Nazis performed hideous experiments on, reanimated back to life or merely clinging to it in grotesque ways. They’re fast, strong, and they can’t always be stopped by just a simple headshot. The film makes the smart decision to limit the appearances of them, and they feel more like the dressing on top of the film rather than the main course. Overlord does well in its simplicity, it only takes place over the course of two days and it never changes its setting. Practical sets and effects are also frequently used, a welcome sight in today’s movie world.
Even though it sometimes stumbles into cheesiness and ticking off cliché boxes, Overlord is still a wild ride. The action is superb and bloody, the horror is tense and nail-biting, and its leading man turns in one hell of a performance. It’s a lot of fun, and also a great reminder that Nazis are evil, despicable, irredeemable people that have no place in the world, especially not in government. Come watch them get their comeuppance, and stick around for the violent and thrilling frights.
While occasionally cheesy, Overlord is an extremely solid World War II drama with a terrifying and exciting zombie twist. It’ll keep you gripping the edge of your seat in suspense, and it delivers thrills in fresh and fun ways.