Director: Julius Avery
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer, Pilou Asbæk, Bokeem Woodbine
Run Time: 110 mins
Overlord is an effective and highly entertaining genre hybrid that is a total blast from start to finish. The premise is quite simple – set in the run-up to D-Day, we follow a group of American soldiers who have been tasked to destroy a German radio tower in an old church. However, this task is made rather difficult when their plane is shot down, in spectacular fashion, and they need to evade the Nazi’s whilst completing their mission.
This is only director Julius Avery’s second feature but he clearly has the skills of a more seasoned director in how well this film is constructed. With the support of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot company producing, many thought this film would be another Cloverfield sequel, but it’s certainly not and it’s all the better for it in how standalone it is. There are multiple sequences here that are outstanding – the first scene in the film with the shooting down of the plane is claustrophobic and harrowing, starting the film immediately on a high. An extended sequence in an attic is masterfully paced too, as are some action sequences in the back-end of the film, but to reveal more would be to delve into spoiler territory. The violence in this film is particularly nasty at times, fully earning the film’s 18 certificate – this is not a film for the squeamish.
The performances by the relatively low-key cast are great, Jovan Adepo proving a solid lead as a young Private,after impressing in Fences a few years ago. Wyatt Russell as Corporal Ford, the leader of the group, is also excellent, a character who is solely concerned with achieving his mission rather than deviating from it once problems start to arise for the group. The two standouts of the cast are firstly Mathilde Ollivier as a French civilian who helps the group hide in her house with her brother and bed-ridden, ill Aunt. This is a breakout role for her and her performance is empathetic yet confident. Pilou Asbæk stars as a particular slimy and villianous Nazi SS Captain, who shines in many moments of the film in his nastiness, channelling Sergi López’s evil Captain in Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.
Visually, Overlord looks great as well, with an emphasis on practical effects over CGI that make the film feel more authentic and gives it a B-movie quality. Jed Kurzel’s score has some memorable cues and suits the film well, even if it’s not his best work.
To summarise, Overlord winds up being one of the most exciting films of the year in its breakneck pacing from start to finish and other than perhaps a slightly corny, but luckily brief American ending. This is particularly surprising given my somewhat low expectations after the poor trailers. It’s also one of the rare genre hybrid films that manages to be fully successful on that promise, whereas lots of films stumble on one of the aspects. If you can handle the violence and gore, Overlord is bloody fun and is well worth a watch in the ever-crowded selection of films on offer.