‘Overlord’ review: Damn entertaining Nazi gore fest thriller

Julius Avery’s Overlord is an aggressively violent thriller that takes you back to the horrors of war and secret Nazi experiments.


Overlord starts as a war drama that quickly switches to a full zombie film. The opening sequence is fantastic. It’s a nerve-wracking airdrop sequence that sets the tone as an opener. It’s the night before D-Day when the film introduces a group of American soldiers who banters about their job just before the plane gets shot down and sees the agonizing and horrors of war. The story particularly focuses on Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), a man who is so innocent and good that he couldn’t even kill a mouse. Then it introduces us to Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), one who makes sure they fulfill their mission, and like many war films we also get to meet other people who are part of the group – a nice and guiltless soldier, a wisecracking prankster, an in-over-his-head war head, and a photographer.

After surviving the crash, the group meets Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a rebellious French woman who is forced to enter into a sexual arrangement with an abusive Nazi officer. Together, as they approach their mission with Chloe’s aid, they begin to realize that there is more going on in the Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. Later they find themselves fighting against supernatural forces that are part of a Nazi experiment.

Most of the film is spent inside a house with characters planning the rest of their mission, contemplating the trials of war and dealing with Chloe’s little brother—who in fact has a great relief scenes with the wisecracking character of John Magaro. It actually takes a while before the film finally teases us with the flesh-eating zombies.

Director Julius Avery beautifully crafts a moving film despite covering the thriller and the gore—raining with blood, discarded guts, detached heads, and spinal cords flying everywhere. Plus the Nazi experiments uncover a lot of disturbing image for the film. It would really take you to the horrors of war and the thrills of a zombie invasion. Also, it would overwhelm the fans of the zombie-horror genre while preserving an enjoyable comedic cinematic experience. It actually works best when it deals with how the soldiers bond since there is a great chemistry among the cast members. Caring for their characters (despite lack thereof) is something positive to look at. It really shows us the life of being a soldier and how they never leave one another behind. Their friendship from beginning to end makes the film not just entertaining, but also emotionally-grounded.


4 out of 5 stars

Directed by Julius Avery Starring  Jovan Adepo, Mathilde Ollivier, Wyatt Russell, Iain De Caestecker, John Magaro, and Pilou Asbaek. Produced by J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber. Runtime: 109 minutes

 

‘Black Mirror’ star Wyatt Russell leads ragtag soldiers in ‘Overlord’

He is best known for playing the lead role in the highly regarded Playtest episode of BBC/Netflix’s critically acclaimed series Black Mirror (directed by 10 Cloverfield Lane director Dan Trachtenberg). Now, emerging actor Wyatt Russell stars in Paramount Pictures’ new suspense thriller Overlord (in Philippine cinemas November 7).

From producer J.J. Abrams, Overlord is a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist. With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that’s crucial to the invasion’s success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen.

Wyatt Russell plays the hard-bitten Cpl. Ford. An experienced explosives expert who’s seen more than his share of mayhem on the battlefield, Ford assumes command of the ragtag unit early in the film.

“Ford had to be someone who intimidates the audience on some level, but who’s also the guy you’d want on your side if you’re parachuting into Nazi territory,” says J.J. Abrams. “To play him, we needed someone with an inherent strength and gruffness, and it’s harder to find that combination than you might expect. But when we saw Wyatt, he had all the qualities we were looking for.”

The filmmakers were all ready to cast Russell when an issue over the actor’s hair threatened to derail the deal. He had already booked his role as a scruffy ex-surfer on the new AMC series Lodge 49, and his contract stipulated that he couldn’t cut his hair or beard, both of which would need substantial trimming for his role in Overlord. After months of negotiating, the Overlord team cut Russell’s hair and then added long extensions to prove to AMC that they would look realistic enough for his Lodge 49 role.

“We sent him back to AMC studios in person so their executives and producers could inspect his scalp up close,” says producer Lindsey Weber with a laugh. “Thankfully it all worked out, because Wyatt has a quiet intensity and strength that we really needed for Ford. When he smiles and his tough exterior breaks, you totally love him.”

Although the film shrouds Ford’s backstory in mystery, Russell developed a psychological profile of the character that allowed him to fully inhabit the role. “I think Ford was a guy who probably had a normal job before World War II came along,” says the actor. “He left it and joined the military because that’s what you were supposed to do at the time. He’s a natural leader who can tell people what to do and how to do it.”

Russell was formerly a professional hockey player before he turned his attention to acting.

Overlord is directed by Julius Avery and stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, and Iain de Caestecker.

Overlord is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. 

‘Overlord’ mashes up WWII, monster horror film

With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drop into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that’s crucial to the invasion’s success, in Paramount Pictures’ new suspense thriller Overlord (in Philippine cinemas November 7).

Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower. But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen.

From producer J.J. Abrams, Overlord is a thrilling, pulse-pounding action adventure with a twist.

“It all started with an incredible script that Billy Ray wrote,” says Overlord producer and Bad Robot founder J.J. Abrams. “The thing I loved most about the premise was that it took a classic World War II movie and smashed it into a monster horror film. It’s a very unique concoction. The idea of those two genres coexisting felt like it could make for an incredibly intense and fun ride.”

Abrams says he was gripped by Ray’s story from the first page. “The opening sequence in particular reminded me of something that Rod Serling might have come up with. It was intense and funny and full of characters and action, and that was just the very beginning of the script.”

Bad Robot’s Jon Cohen, who served as executive producer on the film, was equally impressed by the dazzlingly fresh concept from Ray, an award-winning screenwriter and director whose copious writing credits include such blockbusters as Flightplan, The Hunger Games and Captain Phillips.

“Overlord is a natural fit for Bad Robot because of its distinctive fusion of ideas,” says Cohen. “It’s a great character story and a thrilling World War II movie, but you’ll find humor in there, along with emotion and sentiment, and we always want that blend in our movies. Overlord felt like the perfect combination of that.”

Balancing different tones and genres to create a unique and satisfying hybrid is something Bad Robot specializes in, says Cohen, citing 10 Cloverfield Lane as a prime example.

The secret to creating that balance, says Abrams, can be summed up in one word: character. “One of the things we try to do at Bad Robot is tell stories that are as much about the characters as possible. The idea with Overlord was to spend the first half of the movie getting to know these young American soldiers, and then, little by little, take the audience into a terrifying genre movie where they care about and love the characters.”

Abrams believes this approach is especially important when dealing with creature features. “Not every movie we make has monsters in it, but films like Overlord are best when you believe in the situation, you believe in the characters, and you’re truly invested in their world. It’s much scarier that way.”

Perfecting the film’s shift from military adventure to sci-fi horror required going through numerous drafts, says Cohen. “Billy is a relentless writer and kept pushing to make the script better and better. The goal was to drop a few breadcrumbs along the way so that the change in genre doesn’t come out of left field. But at the same time, you don’t want to tip your hand too early about what’s really happening in the story.”

The intrinsically frightening nature of WWII combat helps smooth the transition, according to Abrams. “The horrors of war are already there in the story, so when you suddenly get thrown into the freakish fantasy material, it actually doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch.”

Overlord is directed by Julius Avery and stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, and Iain de Caestecker.

Overlord is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.