Dominic Applewhite & Jovan Adepo star as two WWII soldiers facing an army of fascist zombies in Overlord. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
by Justin Vernam, CRITIC
14 November 2018
This is the movie you’ve been waiting for. The movie we’ve all been waiting for. Director Julius Avery and producer J.J Abrams deliver on a WWII movie long overdue, bringing together all the aspects we’ve grown to lust for in fictional takes of modern history’s most romanticized conflict. Overlord manages to capture all the right aspects in measurements only found in the most delectably perfected recipes known to movie making.
In an age dominated by superhero movies, other genres of film have struggled to keep pace with the stride at which comic book heroes have mantled through the box office. However, it would appear that an outlier has broken through.
Overlord begins in true Saving Private Ryan fashion as the audience is assaulted with the violence and insanity of the D-Day invasion. After the chaos of landing ensues and the characters assemble, they find themselves facing the roots of Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich in truly spectacular fashion. Because what begins as a search & destroy mission to obliterate a Nazi radio post becomes a desperate ploy against the Nazi’s undead army in the shell of a crippled French village. The heroes face Nazis, zombies, and their own fears in this thrillingly horrifying WWII action movie.
It’s been a while since a gritty WWII film has managed to do anything but flop. Since the conception of Inglorious Bastards, there’s been an absence of worthiness within the genre on the big screens of our beloved theaters, Overlord serves a monsoon of relief to this miserable drought. The movie arrives equipped with features fit to settle anyone’s desire for conflict and drama and then a little something to satisfy the dreams of everyone.
First off, the movie looks fantastic. It’s dark, dominated by dull neutrals and washed out reds and greens, relieved occasionally by the color of a devastating explosion. The drained appearance of the movie does exquisitely to compliment the evil undertone of the film, setting a properly dismal mood for the audience to feel the intensity of the unfolding events. And with minimal distracting special effects, the movie feels more raw and gives it a greater sense of maturity while adding to the grit in a rather special way.
The action is straight out of a video game: exciting, intense, immersive, with a wide variety of firearms to capture the nostalgic satisfaction of seeing classic machine guns and assault rifles unloading round after round at Hitler’s army. This violence is accompanied by plenty of snarky quips and acts of heroism to fill action sequences with character and value, as opposed to having action for the sake of having it. Sprinkle in enough explosions to fit right in between an underwhelming action movie and a recent Michael Bay film, and Avery & Abrams hit a particularly tasty sweet spot with this film. The perfect culmination of action is enough to quench anyone’s thirst for on-screen death and destruction, without bloating the viewer with bullets and bombs.
With all this fighting, it’s hard to avoid gore and the filmmakers managed to make the movie delectably gory. Nazis get their brains blown out in satisfyingly gut-wrenching ways, grotesque images haunt the screen in a fashion explicit enough to horrify a coroner, and there’s more blood than a hemophiliac will see in his life. The movie sickens viewers with mathematically precise amounts of gore, plenty enough to nauseate its viewers, but not too much that it masks the movie’s serious tone.
Apart from this, the movie’s plot and characters are nearly impeccable. The heroes boast a good willed man thrown into war, a cocky wisecracking squad member, a bad ass commander, a small nervous guy, and of course, a beautiful French woman. Meanwhile, the Nazis are detestable from the start, including the likes of a truly despicable captain and an evil scientist. This list of characters seems to radiate stereotypes, but that’s part of the magic of these characters; they’re stereotypical in nature and keep close to the vibe of the genre, but remain enjoyable to watch. Same goes for the plot, yet it’s full of surprises and you never feel like you could guess what’s going to happen next. Avery and his writers also manage to find great balance on several subplots to bolster up the story without being distracting or tone-killing.
This rare accumulation of success in a film is the stand alone, key aspect of Overlord: it’s good. The movie is just good, plain and simple. Avery delivers an enjoyable movie with impressive capability to captivate, excite, disgust, and entertain anyone who watches it. Overlord earns a solid GREAT rating, worth the view by anyone looking for a great war movie, by anyone looking for a great action movie, by anyone looking for a great horror film.
Overlord is rated R.
Justin Vernam is a film critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl.