“Overlord,” directed by Julius Avery, pits a small band of U.S. soldiers ahead of the Normandy landings against the horrific machinations of the Nazis. On the surface, “Overlord” looks and feels like a big budget B-movie, but does so beautifully. The film begins with the 101st Airborne Division being flown ahead of the ground forces to pave the way for the bulk of the invasion. Once they’ve reached France, chaos breaks loose as German air defenses rip into the allied attack and force the airborne to parachute into enemy territory. On the ground, a straightforward mission to disable an enemy radio tower turns into a nightmare filled with evil scientists, deranged officers and, of course, zombies.
As mentioned earlier, “Overlord” feels like a B-movie but looks like a big-budget movie that you’d expect from a producer like J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”). After having seen the trailers for this film over a month prior to my screening, I expected a cheesy, low-effort zombie movie with Nazis thrown in for good measure. Though this is the case, “Overlord” embraces this concept and owns it. The characters themselves feel like they’re straight out of a classic World War II film. For example, the core group is comprised of the grizzled veteran who has experienced the horrors of war, the New Yorker who talks a little too much, the oblivious photographer and the everyman protagonist who is thrust into the horrors of war despite their innocence. Their banter and humor before deployment offer glimpses into each character and gives us reason to like and root for them. Though brief and only surface-level, this exposition works for the film’s odd humor and foreboding nature. This is followed by a breathtaking and adrenaline pumping moment when the Germans open fire forcing the heroes to jump amid chaos and carnage in the air.
Additionally, the action scenes in this movie are reminiscent of a video game at times. Drawing on games like Wolfenstein and Call of Duty (two games that often fall heavily on both Nazi and Zombie antagonists) the small group of soldiers often feel like an army when they mow down scores of faceless Nazi enemies. Furthermore, when the action picks up, the scenes are adrenaline fueled and explosive as the heroes open fire on Nazis and zombies alike.
The area where this movie falls flat however is how long it takes to give us what we expected from the trailers. “Overlord” takes its time to show us zombies even though it constantly hints at it throughout the opening of the film. Not until about an hour into the film do we get a brief glimpse at the zombies as our lead explores the Nazi laboratory where the zombies are either lifeless or safely strapped down. It takes another 20 minutes before we get our first zombie in action and by the ending, our crew has only faced three of them, while the ending scene hints at countless more. This movie is an action movie with Nazis as the primary villain while zombies take second billing.
Verdict: “Overlord” is a fun, adrenaline fueled action/horror film that takes us behind enemy lines as we root against possibly the best onscreen villains: Nazis. Reminiscent of classic B-movies and popular first-person shooters, “Overlord” works best when not taken seriously and when enjoyed with popcorn in hand.