REVIEW BY: ANDREW JONES
In the long run of Paramount's deal with JJ Abrams' Bad Robot we've been given stories about scared New Yorkers escaping a monster, a never-ending running man doing impossible deeds and Harrison Ford reading the news, so when explaining the basic premise of the latest feature 'Overlord' one has to know that absolutely anything could happen, any genre could be explored, but really we know it's going to be something high-enough in concept but audience-friendly and not too complex for the outlier to ponder why they went to the cinema.
It's 1944, planes and boats are goign across the channel, heading to France to take down the Nazi reign as best they can, but when they reach the country proper things do not go to plan one bit. After being shot out the sky, surviving members of a company unite and sneak through the woods on the hunt for a village where German officers have placed a make-shift radio tower, and to take this down before the invasion begins proper. As the last remaining Allies get closer to their goal they discover increasing circles of hell in human form, and are pushed to their limits to fight for all life.
Any more detail would be to spoil how the film plays out, which is why the trailer gleefully shows as many reveals as possible, right up to third act material, who wants surprises and shocks in this day and age?
Overlord manages to bring some gorgeous visuals to the war/horror hybrid, often bathed in greens and night-sky blues in the French countryside, and the oranges of fire, evil, hell itself, popping in, along with blood reds. Cinematographers Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner deliver the goods, and when things get claustrophobic or terrifying, sickening, freaky, you don't want to look away from the visuals, but boy you fear what's about to come into sight. Son Of A Gun director Julius Avery directs with a great sense of comraderie, often times the camera welcomes multiple characters as the script lets interplay be the key to the emotion and tension of the piece, and when we focus on singular sequences the claustrophobia ignites in unblinking tension.
The core cast really sell it, Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell do the heavy lifting but John Magaro, Dominic Applewhite and Ian De Caestecker fill out the company strong, as Mathilde Ollivier's French villager adds a sense of location, history and connection to the fight, and Game Of Thrones' Pilou Asbæk plays up a Nazi officer in a Michael Shannon-esque performance that makes you angry, feaful and damn excited at the prospect of him getting beaten at some point. Hopefully.
Overlord plays up its premise slowly, letting the characters come first, as the humans in soldier uniforms realise they are isolated, alone and will have to fight through absolute hell in order to secure any kind of victory, and it leads to some intense, wonderfully constructed action and thriller set-pieces, and horrific imagery and gnarly violence that plays up the genre and then some. Not for the squeamish, Overlord really has a creative sense of its genres and storyline, and lets the audience get some big wins along the way to an exciting final act.
It's all very nicely done, if not too complex or bringing anything thoughtful to the table after the lights turn back on, but for 95 minutes of action, thriller, horror and intensity Overlord plays the tune nicely and dances a very fine jig indeed. This is no Cloverfield Paradox, that's for dang sure.