Main cast: Jovan Adepo (Private Ed Boyce), Wyatt Russell (Corporal Ford), Mathilde Ollivier (Chloe), John Magaro (Tibbet), Gianny Taufer (Paul), Pilou Asbæk (Captain Wafner), Iain De Caestecker (Chase), Dominic Applewhite (Rosenfeld), Jacob Anderson (Dawson), Bokeem Woodbine (Sgt Eldson), Erich Redman (Dr Schmidt)
Director: Julius Avery
Hitler had bit a bullet, and it’s the day before the event we know today as D-Day. However, for the big invasion to take off, a paratrooper squad is tasked to sneak to and take down a German radio tower in a coastal French town in order for the rest of the Allied troops to land and begin the bang bang bang. Unfortunately, the plane is attacked before it reaches it destination. The survivors are our protagonist Private Ed Boyce (newbie who barely passed his military training), the obnoxious sniper Tibbet because every squad needs one of those who won’t shut up, Dawson who has plans after the war is over and hence is so dead, and war photographer Chase as well as their leader, the silent and broody Corporal Ford who had been transferred here due to some hushed-up reason that is supposed to turn him into some tragic sexy antihero type.
These two soon find an ally of sorts in Chloe, a villager who relents in giving these men shelter at her home. I mean, can any woman say no to a bunch of heavily armed guys? Unfortunately, she has also been reluctantly sleeping with the Wafner, the SS Hauptsturmführer of that village, in exchange for protection for her, her rather “special” younger brother Paul, and her aunt who is down with a mysterious disease that makes her resemble a walking dead. Wafner chooses to drop by that evening for some nookie, forcing the soldiers to hide before they can finalize their plan to take down the radio tower. All kinds of fun follow, with Boyce discovering first hand that the church is actually a laboratory run by Dr Schmidt. Apparently the village is built on soil that has some unique properties, and the scientist is trying to create a serum from the tar-like stuff to reanimate dead men. The serum turns these reanimated men into homicidal, overpowered monstrous killers, so oh boy. This is like a precursor to those Resident Evil stories.
Overlord is more of a hybrid of a war movie and a horror tale – while the monstrous killers are not pretty to look at, for the most part they only show up late in the film, and even then, they all look like generic CGI vomit that floods movies of this sort. Violence and gore are at a low level, and for the most part, the movie focuses on some clichéd liberal interpretation of wartime drama. As expected, the script romanticizes military insubordination as the right thing to do, with Boyce constantly going against Ford to follow the heart or other nonsense. In real life, such an attitude will likely lead to a collapse of a military mission, but hey, movies of this sort are written by Hollywood dipsticks so what can one expect, really. Of course, Boyce’s stance is hypocritical: he has problems with Ford being all military and kill-the-enemies, but he has no problems doing the same when it suits him to do so. Furthermore, Ford the “bad military guy” is the main instrumental person that finally allows the mission to be a success, so I’m not sure what this movie is trying to do with Boyce. In the end, Boyce somehow becomes the de facto leader of the team. Why? What kind of character or ability growth has he experienced to make him a suitable leader material? That guy spends a big part of the movie being a pain in the ass to work with – even the motormouth jerk Tibbet at the end of the day obeys his superior, while Boyce is all about open insubordination and mouthing back to Ford.
This issue is Boyce is only one because the movie chooses to focus on it for a big part of the movie. If it had been more of a no-nonsense monster-thon movie from start to finish, then I would probably be able to sit back and enjoy the whole thing better. Instead, it chooses to inject some out of place self-important war-drama lite stuff in what is essentially a monster film, and ends up confusing me with its inconsistent and even contradictory take home messages.
Aside from that, the rest of Overlord is perfectly adequate as a generic, even formulaic movie. The characters behave the way they are expected to based on their archetypes, the kid of course needs rescuing, and since this is a present year movie, Chloe gets some obligatory “Yay! I overcome some random mook so I’m now a strong woman, thus making up for those times when I need rescuing from my own dumbassery!” moments, and the whole thing ends in a way that can be seen coming from one hour away. It’s alright, but it’s also far more generic and hence easier to forget than it should be.