1-and-a-half hours later sitting through Overlord’s gore-laden ode to America’s army laying the smack down on Nazi occupants in France during World War II, I’m not sure what to feel.
On one hand, I am convinced that with some slick direction, great score, and charismatic-if-stock characters, you can make a well-worn R-rated trope of “soldiers vs undead abominations” feel exciting and fresh again. On the other, well, I wanted more beyond what I got.
Ghoul Metal Jacket
I’m surprised Activision hasn’t put their stamp all over the simple concept: a group of American soldiers have to bomb a radio tower in France so that air support can help out.
Problem is, said tower that’s on a church houses a deep dark scientific secret. If you’ve seen the trailers and played a lot of shooters, you’ll know what’s up. Just like its possible digital interactive inspiration (alongside a bunch of Rob Zombie songs), it’s meaty enough without coming off as too short, it’s simple to follow, and it’s flashy without being too heavy-handed. Oh and the violence and gore effects are pretty detailed. Get ready to wince at some key scenes in the second half.
The American army team of Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Ford (Wyatt Russell), Tibbet, and Chase all work well within the action horror trappings of Overlord. Boyce is the greenhorn private who goes from newbie to badass throughout the film. Ford is the no-nonsense leader who puts the mission above everything else, though he shows a soft side at the second half of the film.
Tibbet is the chatterbox who needs to be semi-obnoxious and have a sort of side arc with the kid in the show. Yeah, there’s a precocious kid Paul and his sister Chloe, played respectively by Gianni Taufer and the not-quite-typecasted-in-a-damsel-role French villager Chloe.
You also get an antagonist in the form of Pilou Asbæk as a Nazi officer Wafner who relishes in holding captive the French town the heroes are stuck in and also being a slimy bad guy from start to finish. He gets over-the-top halfway in the film, but in a film featuring science experiments and undead abominations as soldiers for the future Reich of the Nazi army? I’d expect nothing less.
Falling A Bit Short?
The film attempts to add a touch of class in the form of poignant moments and quiet scenes where Boyce and co. talk to each other and even find out more about the French village and Chloe. Alas, they were cut short in favour of the real meat of the show: the second half bit with the church basement and the undead business.
It’s also weird that the film could have had a great final act but was also reduced to a tease in favour of a standoff between Wafner and the two lead soldiers of the company. Not that it’s bad, but it could have elevated this film from standard action flick to a marvel that sits alongside the first Predator, Aliens, and Army of Darkness.
Production house Bad Robot, writer Billy Ray, and director Julius Avery made a pretty decent throwback to schlock exploitation films featuring Nazis and the undead but with a higher budget and a solid script. I wished it went a bit more off the rails, but hey, I’m quite okay with what we got.