Director: Julius Avery
Screenplay: Billy Ray
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, Bokeem Woodbine
Runtime: 110 Minutes
The rumour mill surrounding the release of Overlord has consisted of debate as to whether or not it’s production company Bad Robot – and by association producer J. J. Abrams – was considering morphing the film as it exists into the already stalled Cloverfield franchise as it has with its last two sequels.
Thankfully, none of that appears to have come to pass, but much like 10 Cloverfield Lane and it’s kin what it does share is the confidence of a modestly budgeted genre picture that uses its basic conceit well. The plot follows several American soldiers who are dropped behind enemy lines the day before D-Day, with a mission to disable a transmission tower in Nazi-occupied France, and discover that the enemy has been conducting diabolical experiments on the inhabitants of a small rural town.
Although setting itself up impressively well as a feature that begins as a straight-laced war picture, with the archetypal macho roles already filled in by the cast, only to transform gradually into a nasty, gleefully violent and gory science fiction horror, the air of that very horror element permeates from its aggressively staged opening sequence. Where the cast is shot down from their plane in an explosive flurry of intense gunfire and scrambling chaos.
It’s an eagerly staged sequence, and sets up the tone and the character dynamics so immediately well that it doesn’t feel the need to end up making the film about anything more than exactly what it is; an ultraviolent genre-bender that’s small in scale but big on enjoyment.
Director Julius Avery completely gets the dynamics that he’s playing with, but he and screenwriter Billy Ray are smart enough to know that the audience will follow it without having to undercut the otherwise serious tone. It’s very well shot, the action sequences and pacing maintain an engagement that makes it fly by, and Jed Kurzel’s score surges with deep atmosphere.
The visual effects and make-up work are all top of the line, especially when things start to tip into more bonkers territory later on as the Re-Animator-like serum starts showing its overpowered potential with rotten ghouls and a twisted state of mind.
Even in the current climate, the Nazis still make for great bad guys to watch getting splattered, shot up and blown to bits. Especially when they’re being played by actors such as Pilou Asbæk as Dr Wafner, an SS Hauptsturmführer and the stories big bad, who is very enjoyable to watch as he delectably devours the scenery with the same relish he affords his Game of Thrones role.
The hero cast is equally good company to keep, even if they’re all playing up to expectation. Jovan Adepo brings gravity to lead Pvt. Boyce, Wyatt Russell (looking and sounding more like his father with each passing picture) is great as the nihilistic Cpl. Ford, and Mathilde Ollivier is a great inclusion as Chloe, a civilian who aides the stranded paratroopers while protecting her brother and aunt. John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker and Jacob Anderson also make good work of their roles, De Caestecker, in particular, getting a fun body horror sequence all his own.
Overlord is so stripped down and enjoyable as far as B-movies go that even if there isn’t much more to say about it besides what it presents, and the fun time it has with what it’s afforded and the cast on hand gives it such an enthusiastic boost. It’s a creative amusement that guarantees and delivers on exactly what it promises.