[Screen It]


(2018) (Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell) (R)

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Action-Horror: American soldiers on a mission in World War II France discover a village where secret Nazi experiments have taken a horrific turn.
As D-Day approaches, American soldiers parachute into Nazi-occupied France to destroy a communications tower that will prove instrumental in the mission to storm the beaches of Normandy. Led by Corporal Ford (WYATT RUSSELL), a battle-hardened demolitions expert, the troops include Private Boyce (JOVAN ADEPO) who's only been in the Army a short time and doesn't know if he can kill; Private Tibbet (JOHN MAGARO), a motor-mouthed soldier who rubs others the wrong way; Private Chase (IAIN DE CAESTECKER), who's tagging along to chronicle the mission with his camera; and Private Rosenfeld (DOMINIC APPLEWHITE), a Jewish soldier afraid of what might happen to him if captured by the Germans.

The tower is at the center of a village that's been taken over by the Germans. The soldiers get help from a local woman named Chloe (MATHILDE OLLIVIER), who's managed to keep herself and her little brother, Paul (GIANNY TAUFER) alive by carrying on a sexual relationship with sadistic Nazi Commander Wafner (PILOU ASBAEK).

Boyce, Ford, and the others soon learn that there is more than just a Nazi occupation going on at the village. Under the surface is a secret lab where the evil Dr. Schmidt (ERICH REDMAN) is conducting ghastly experiments on the villagers and captured enemy soldiers. He has come up with a serum that he injects in the innocent captives that turns them into mindless, violent, and nearly un-killable zombies.

OUR TAKE:7 out of 10
I like World War II movies. I like zombie movies. As it turns out, after seeing "Overload," I like World War II zombie movies! As billed, the film is a cross between "Saving Private Ryan" and "Dawn of the Dead" (actually, it's more a cross with a little-seen, but really cool flick called "Dead Snow," but I'd come off as a geeky film snob if I went so obscure). It's very much in the structure of "From Dusk Til Dawn" where you are watching one kind of flick, and then suddenly the filmmakers flip the script on the audience and turn it into a whole 'nother kind of movie. If you go with it, you will be rewarded. I so went with it!

"Overlord" starts out as your standard "men on a mission" movie. A small group of American soldiers is air-dropped into 1944 France and tasked with infiltrating a Nazi-occupied village and destroying a communications tower at its center. At stake is the D-Day beach landing, which gives the film both its urgency and its ticking clock. But when the troops make it to the village and plot out their plans to blow the tower, they discover something deeply sinister. The Germans have been doing ghastly experiments on the villagers and any enemy soldiers they capture, turning them into practically un-killable, super-strong zombies. At one point, the lead Nazi, Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), boasts, "Der Fuhrer wants a thousand-year Reich! He'll need thousand-year soldiers!"

What follows is pretty dark, gory, and intense. And I admired that director Julius Avery respected both the tried-and-true tropes of both the war movie and the zombie movie. The mash-up is pretty well executed here, because we know that Hitler and his lackeys did partake in absolutely freakin' evil experiments on people they devalued. So, it's not that much of a cinematic leap that they would be conducting hit-or-miss zombie tests in a B-movie splatter-fest.

The cast is made up of actors who have yet to become stars who will remind you of actors who have become stars. The lead is Jovan Adepo, who does his best John Boyega as Private Boyce who's unsure he can kill when the moment comes. His commanding officer is Corporal Ford, a hardened demolitions expert played by Wyatt Russell doing his best Charlie Hunnam. They team up with a beautiful, toughened French villager named Chloe, who's played by Mathilde Ollivier doing a better Milla Jovovich than Milla's done in her past few films.

"Overlord" pulls out a number of manipulative screenplay tricks that I could have done without. There's an annoying kid character (Chloe's little brother) who, of course, gets captured and his life becomes as important to Boyce and the bunch as the thousands and thousands of Allied troops about to storm the Normandy beach. Chloe is almost raped twice in the film, as if we the audience needed more reason to hate the Nazis. And there are a couple of characters whose demises are as telegraphed as teen fodder in your pick of the cheapie slasher thrillers of the 1980s and beyond.

For the most part, though, the story is highly involving. And there are a couple of sequences throughout that are flat-out incredible to behold on the big screen. Chiefly, the film's opening sequence where we get one long continuous tracking shot of Boyce getting expelled from an airplane engulfed in flames; free-falling through all sorts of Nazi ground-to-air fire and mid-air destruction; and eventually plunging into a French lake where he has to cut himself free from his parachute and gear and swim to the surface. "Overlord" is an overload of war-movie thrills and B-movie chills. I'd pay to see it again, rating it a very solid 7 out of 10. (T Durgin)

Reviewed November 8, 2018 / Posted November 9, 2018