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Who made it?
Initially thought to be a part of the Cloverfield series (but thankfully not) the thing that got everyone moist about this film was the involvement of the last new hope for the Star Wars franchise, JJ Abrams. Abrams initially conceived the script with Hunger Games screenwriter Billy Ray before stepping aside to take on the producer role. Later on, the Revenant’s Mark L Smith was brought in by Paramount to give the story some finesse (or is it possibly a case of the studio hiring a guy to dumb it down?).
Up and coming Aussie director Julius Avery get his big break after a series of impressive short films and the decent heist movie Son of a Gun from 2014. This movie puts him into the big leagues. Following Overlord, 20th Century Fox have him signed to write and direct the re-make of Flash Gordon, a can of worms I’m not gonna get into here.
What took you so long?
Probably the biggest gripe I have about Overlord happened long before I took my seat in the cinema. The film’s release was postponed from mid-October to early November and from there it was decided that Australian audiences would have to take their seats almost a month later when it opened in the first week of December. Pretty shit considering we’ve got some Aussie skin in the game with old mate Avery in charge. Even more frustrating was trying to find a decent session time with everyone queuing to see the Grinch or Elliot the Littlest fucking Reindeer at the same time.
What’s it about?
You’ve probably guessed that Overlord is not really a Christmas movie and if you’ve seen the trailers, you know what it’s all about. American soldiers on a mission just before D-Day get dropped behind enemy lines to take out a high value target to ensure the allied liberation of Western Europe would get off on the right foot. That allied attack was codenamed “Operation Overlord” for those playing at home, hence the movie title.
Things don’t go well for the American soldiers from the onset with anti-aircraft fire wiping out a good portion of them before they even hit the ground. They move from bad to worse discovering there’s more to their high value target than just a radio tower, because the Nazis are experimenting on people with horrific consequences.
Who’s in it?
The cast and characters are really great albeit slightly clichéd. Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn is a chip off the old block as the hard-arsed Corporal Ford. Mathilde Ollivier plays French villager Chloe who’ll stop at nothing to protect her family from the Nazis. Iain De Caestecker is the naïve photographer Chase who has found himself in way over his head. Pilou Asbæk is a menacing but slightly under used villain as SS Hauptsturmführer Wafner. John Magaro is great as the wisecracking private Tibbet, his one liners offer some colour during some pretty bleak and gory moments. Jovan Adepo is good as the morally upstanding lead of the film, private Boyce. Although they screwed up on a minor historical detail in that American armed forces were still segregated in 1944 and there was certainly no integrated units at that time. But you know, Nazis didn’t make zombies either so whatevs mate!
There’s really nothing new to the plot but the film is very well crafted. It moves along at a cracking pace and the action sequences are fantastic, particularly in the opening and final act. The rag tag bunch of heroes bonded by circumstance out to save the world is one of the oldest tricks in the book but it can be forgiven here due to the solid portrayal of characters and excellent practical effects.
The studio did a good job of sucking me in with a great trailer but it was disappointing to discover most of the big moments from the film were included. With a by the numbers and highly predictable story, Overlord is a shallow experience. I enjoyed the action, the characters, the gore and the World War 2 setting but there really was no point in this movie where I was surprised.
It was almost like creators said “hey let’s make a movie”, instead of “hey let’s tell a story”.
Overlord’s trailers were like a party pie. You know it’s going to be ridiculously hot, you take a bite anyway, scold your tongue and your taste for the main meal is ruined.