By Mason Masotta
“They have been given a purpose.” I cannot forget this chilling line that has haunted me for months since watching the first trailer for “Overlord.” The premise was simple, at first. A squad of American soldiers land in a small French town occupied by Nazi Germany at the height of World War II, but that is only the start of this amazing action/thriller.
Directed by Julius Avery and featuring a prestigious Producer credit from J. J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), “Overlord” is one of the biggest films that no one knows about. The marketing has been especially limited and few details about the plot have been revealed as a result. I imagine that this is intentional in order to preserve the mystery and eerie atmosphere.
Now, I’ve been seeing reviews from other people who all have a similar criticism of the film. It is not a solely Nazi Zombie movie. Many are disappointed that it isn’t more reminiscent of a Call of Duty video game, but that was never really the intention of it. There is an obvious science fiction/supernatural element that I won’t ruin by explaining here, but every moment of the film is not a zombie survival thriller. It seems important to try and let people know this now, since I’ve seen that people have been disappointed that there wasn’t more of it in the story.
Without going into spoiler territory, I wanted to stress that the actual pacing of the movie is one of its most impressive achievements. The first act plays like a usual WWII film would, with Nazi fighting action and brotherly bonding between the squad. There is then a sudden shift in the wartime action as a horror thriller unfolds within the walls of a militarized church.
Typically when a movie switches between several genres and tones I find it distracting, but in “Overlord” the shifts of humor, drama, horror and action all add to the enjoyment. There is something for everyone here, which is why I would consider it one of the biggest wild card movies of the year.
One of the biggest factors in the success of the film is its stars. With a relatively small cast, everyone had an essential role to play in helping convey the mysterious nature of the story. One standout of the film was the female lead, Mathilde Ollivier. As Chloe, a French citizen trying to survive German invasion, she was key in showing the effects of the war on the civilian population and the way in which they assisted in the success of the Allies.
Jovan Adepo, as Private Boyce, also helped vary perspectives on the war itself. Boyce is a drafted soldier with a kind heart who does not want to fight but will have to adapt with the ever-worsening situation and supernatural elements that appear before him. Boyce was a breath of fresh air as a protagonist, particularly because he is not a stereotypical-guns blazing American soldier that is usually heading these kinds of period movies.
It should be noted before going to see this movie that it is not for the squeamish. As trailers have teased, this film delivers on the action, gore, and body horror one would expect from a Wolfenstein style storyline.