Monday 5th June, 1944; the eve of the most important action of the Second World War, the Allied invasion of occupied Normandy, Operation Overlord, “the great crusade, the destruction of the Nazi war machine,” yet the success of it is dependent on a much smaller operation launched the preceding night to knock out a German radio transmitter in a small French village.

The words are easy for the generals far from the front, but the mission is not, a squadron of frightened paratroopers taking heavy fire from the ground as they approach their drop point, each of them responding differently, some withdrawn, others bullying their comrades with false bravado until their plane comes apart around them in a burst of fire.

Only a handful make it to the ground, Sergeant Eldson (Spider-Man: Homecoming‘s Bokeem Woodbine), Privates Boyce (Mother!‘s Jovan Adepo), Chase (Lost River‘s Iain De Caestecker), Dawson (Game of Thrones‘ Jacob Anderson) and Tibbet (John Magaro, soon to be seen in The Umbrella Academy) as well as explosives expert Corporal Ford (Cold in July‘s Wyatt Russell), but the horror they find is beyond anything they could have expected.

Directed by Julius Avery from a script by Billy Ray and Mark L Smith via Paramount and Bad Robot, the production values of Overlord cannot be denied from the overwhelming, breathless sensory overload of the parachute drop onwards, with fires burning on the horizon and smoke permeating every frame, a bloody and hard-hitting if slightly glorified action movie which is unapologetic in its portrayal of the Nazis.

Shown as the embodiment of remorseless evil, the “master race” is utterly without mercy, the vicious Hauptsturmführer Wafner (Ghost in the Shell‘s Pilou Asbæk) and the sinister Doctor Schmidt (Erich Redman, soon to be seen in Automata) using the villagers in their experiments, burning the still-living survivors, those left behind fearful collaborators who hope turning on their neighbours might extend their own tenuous safety.

Formerly a niche within an over-exposed genre, the Nazi zombie film has expanded over recent years to an impressive scorecard: Frankenstein’s Army, Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead, Outpost III: Rise of the Spetsnaz, though fortunately Trench 11 refers to a location rather than its position in the franchise (and being set in the Great War isn’t strictly Nazis, though it fits the criteria), yet despite the bigger budgets of major studio support Overlord brings little new to the arena.

A mashup of Re-Animator and Where Eagles Dare, it is never less than competent but inferior to both and is far from a classic, even the small central cast filled with stock characters, Magaro a mouthy Yank incapable of stealth and without an ounce of common sense, Mathilde Ollivier the plucky villager who hesitantly throws her lot in with them and is conveniently handy with knife, machine gun and flamethrower.

Taking too long to arrive where it was always going and with no surprises along the way, Overlord is adequate at what it is but offers nothing more, an entertaining but unspectacular showcase of prosthetics and explosions which is unambiguous in its approach or its message, which in itself is at least preferable to arguing there are some very good people on both sides.

Overlord is currently on general release and also screening in IMAX



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