Imagine an action film set during WWII about a small squad of paratroopers sent behind enemy lines in Nazi-occupied France on the eve of the D-Day landings.Imagine that it’s also part horror film as the squad comes across monsters created by evil Nazi experiments. The squad now has to battle through these monsters and their creators in order to survive and complete their mission.
Now imagine this movie also has a cast of compelling characters and is a pretty good flick.
“Overlord” is just that, directed by Australian filmmaker Julius Avery and produced by J.J. Abrams, who has had a mixed bag of success working on “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” in the past.
What really makes this action-horror film work is the characters. There is the main lead, Pvt. Boyce, who is just a nice guy caught up fighting a war. Cpl. Ford is their commanding officer by default and he’s not really a jerk, but his one and only goal is to complete the mission, no matter what. Their sniper, Tibbets, is just rude. Even when risking his life to save a little kid from gunfire, he’s kind of annoyed about it.
The fact that the filmmakers chose to spend time to develop these characters and to have the audience get to know these characters is a good move. It’s nice to have a compelling cast of characters to follow through the wild plot. It’s kind of a foundation that holds the film together, especially since this a film that is basically a part of the Nazi-zombie subgenre, despite there not actually being any zombies. It has been compared to “Call of Duty” because it does resemble the Nazi-zombie survival mode.
With that said, this movie feels to be more of an homage to classic Hollywood films and B-movies about monsters, WWII commando teams and mad scientists – the sorts of films the “Indiana Jones” franchise took heavy inspiration from. Julius Avery even referred to “Overlord” as “Indiana Jones on acid” in an interview with Syfy Wire.
The film has other cool stuff, too. There’s good action sequences and while it’s not necessarily scary, the horror-esque elements are very entertaining. There is a healthy dose of humor and with a movie that does have a B-movie plot, why wouldn’t there be some comedy? And there are some effective serious moments as well.
After watching the first quarter of “Overlord,” you might think it’s an action film. Then later, it becomes almost a horror film. While that may not be a real sign of quality, I can’t help but to truly respect that. I wish I could have watched “Overlord” without having any previous knowledge of what it was about to see if I was surprised or not.
However, “Overlord” isn’t great. It can feel cliche at times and a bit lackluster. There are moments when you know someone is going to die, which is a common issue in war films. Although I did actually care when certain characters died. A problem with a lot of horror films is they can often feature people who feel dumb or unlikeable. Here, that’s not the case.
If you want to see a big blockbuster that is a lot better than it has to be, “Overlord” is a good choice.