Directed by Julius Avery
Starring Wyatt Russell, Jovan Adepo, Pilou Asbæk, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker, Bokeem Woodbine, Mathilde Olliver
When a group of American G.I.s find themselves behind enemy lines, they quickly dicover that the small French village is home to more than just Nazi soldiers.
J.J. Abrams chooses to open his infamous mystery box in enemy occupied France at the tail end of the Führer’s reign, and if you’re expecting Julius Avery’s monster mash to be a twisty turny sleight of hand, a la 10 Cloverfield Lane, then prepare to be slightly disappointed.
Overlord is straight up B-movie retrograde horror, that’s as gruesomely enjoyable as it is frustratingly uninspired. Go in expecting to see Call of Duty: The Josef Mengele DLC and you’ll still have a bloody good time at the movies.
Throwing you off a bomber plane with a group of grunts who you’ll barely get to know – Jovan Adepo is earnest, John Magaro is wisecracking, and Wyatt Russell is the “you weren’t there man, you weren’t there” soldier – the opening sequence is effectively intense. Bullets shred the tin can fuselage, as well as bodies (you’d better get used to that), as our men-on-a-mission crash land in hostile territory, and the film rarely lets up from there.
As an exercise in propulsive action, accompanied by an intimidating score, Overload rattles along, punctuated by some impressive moments of body horror to ensure that there’s never a dull moment.
Harking back to the computer game comparison, this does feel like a succession of levels building towards a rather generic final showdown slugfest. But along the way you’ll get a trip through a macabre laboratory that features some genuinely nightmarish creations, corridor chases that invoke Alien3 (which is a good thing), and one of the most inventive infiltrations of an enemy camp since a Trojan horse was wheeled through the gates of Troy.
Our roll call of victims are a mixed bag, with Russell and Adepo impressing as the most prominent of the platoon, while Pilou Asbæk is deliciously vile, that is until he disappears under a layer of make-up. Mathilde Ollivier also gets the chance to kick some super-soldier ass, but the way in which her arc completes, or more to the point doesn’t, is utterly baffling.
More impressive is the look and feel of Avery’s film; from the dizzying effects of the parachute fall, to the haunting imagery of silhouetted air infantry hanging from the trees, he strikes the perfect balance between coherent action set-pieces, and mood established by creating a burgeoning sense of dread.
Complimenting the grindhouse nature of the movie, writers Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) make sure that there are moments of levity amongst the gore. There’s a dark comedy to some of the scenes, which lull you into a false sense of security, before flipping things on their head and straight up scaring the bejeezus out of you.
It’s that sense of fun that’s probably the main takeaway from Overlord; the fact it’s a sweaty, dirt-under-your-fingernails thrill ride, that’s little more than an enjoyable slice of Friday night World War Z.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt