Overlord - 2018
Director(s): Julius Avery
Writer(s): Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith
Cinematography by: Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner
Editor(s): Matt Evans
Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk and John Magaro
I had a weird love-hate relationship with this movie, way before it even came out. It was first rumored to be part of the "Cloverfield Universe." and I was intrigued by that idea, especially with the fact that it was set during WWII. However, after the disaster that was this year's The Cloverfield Paradox, I started to feel some trepidation towards this film. When the first trailer was released, my excitement grew once again as it looked like an onscreen adaptation of the video games Wolfenstein or the Call of Duty online mode, where WWII soldiers fight-off Nazi-zombies. Walking-out I wish it was more of a B-movie than it was, but I still had some fun, let's talk about it.
The story takes place on the eve of D-Day (Normandy landings). An American squad is tasked with going behind enemy lines. The mission is simple, destroy a German radio tower located in a remote French village. However, once they make it to the village, they notice that it is not just a radio tower and the Germans have been conducting experiments on the dead. This script is a tale of three acts, yeah, I know all or most of film's scripts are three acts, but here we have a distinct movie in each of the said acts, with the Nazi invasion being the glue that holds them together. First act plays like a classic War movie, we get the exhilarating plane sequence showcased in the trailer, and we see the survivors traverse the woods on their way to the village. Second act slows way down, as we get multiple tensed scenes of this cat and mouse game between the American soldiers and the Germans, as they hideout planning their assault. And the third and final act is where get the Nazi-zombie(adjacent) violence we all came to see. While all of it is shot and acted very well, the second act weighed down the flow of the story heavily making it a bit of a slog to get through.
It just seems like writer's Billy Ray, and Mark L. Smith wanted their movie to live in both worlds. Their concept has all the makings of a glorious B-movie, Nazi-zombies, yet they want their film to be taken very seriously to the point that they forget their elevator pitch and become a war movie for 2/3s of the runtime. It is not a bad war movie; it's just not their selling point as their trailers fully showcase. Their distinct element is the crazy B-movie monster gore, but the limited amount we got was just not enough to fully overcome the sluggish second act.
Quick note: in an industry that has forgotten the art of a great poster, this film has one of my favorite posters of the year. Creative and tells a story with the visual true to the movie.
I was very impressed by Julius Avery's eye for action. The opening sequence is thrilling and heart-pounding. The fight sequences are great and fast-paced. Matt Evans editing was crisp as it never feels jumbled or intrusive, letting the scenes breath just long enough. The score by Jed Kurzel complements the action well, and there is an eerie, and unsettling piece of music that plays throughout the discovery of the lab that gave me goosebumps. There are two credited cinematographers, Laurie Rose, and Fabian Wagner, something a bit unusual for that position but they produced some great visuals, and my favorite one is probably the landing sequences in the woods. The use of red and shadows was very well executed. The acting was solid all the way around, even though they are fitted into the prototype war characters. Our altruistic hero, played by Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers) was the best character of the bunch, and I'm happy to see Adepo getting more roles as he is a wonderful actor.
Overlord has a great elevator pitch that barely comes to fruition, but it is entertaining enough for the audience to have a fun time at the movies. While we do get some great B-movie sequences, I wish the script indulged in that aspect as it would've made for a far better film. Good direction, great score, eerie visuals, and solid acting all add up to and fine movie and one that many people will enjoy, especially if they go into it knowing it is not the movie the trailers are selling. It is the perfect matinee movie. Killing Nazi-zombies is why I love movies.
Overlord is currently playing in theaters. Watch it.
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