As part of US Airborne forces parachuted behind enemy lines in preparation for D-Day, Boyce (Jovan Adepo) barely survives his first parachute drop. Along with his hard boiled corporal (Wyatt Russell), and a small surviving force of American soldiers he tries to complete his mission, and destroy a German radio tower located near a French church. However the Nazis are using the church for other purposes, and their cruel experiments have created something unnatural. After all, a thousand year Reich needs thousand year soldiers.
Overlord gives much of its focus to acting as a solid World War II film, adding zombies into the mix just to give events a little bit more spice. In general it obeys the rules of the war film genre, playing it rather straight and effectively, before slowly introducing those horror elements. It’s that combination that really changes things, and although it is conservative in the balance that it sets for itself, it effectively pulls it off. The result is wondrously gory, making zombies into more than just shambling hordes dispatched by a light tap to the head, but into terrifying bone-snapping rage filled super soldier.
Yet director Julius Avery certainly pitches Overlord more to action rather than to horror sensibilities. As a director he rarely mines the potential of suspense, instead going straight for some rather spectacularly staged violence. Here he is on stable ground, delivering the goods from the first tension filled parachute drop into enemy territory, to running gun battles with Nazis through a French village. Overlord is exactly what you would expect from such a film, it just has zombies now.
Similarly its cast of characters touch on all the expected archetypes for such a film. Adepo brings both the strength and naivety we require from a point of view character cast straight from boot camp to behind enemy lines. He views war as hell, and struggles to be both an effective soldier and true to his personal ideals. Wyatt Russell is appropriately grizzled as the Italian peninsular veteran (swaggering in his father’s Kurt’s boot-prints), Mathilde Ollivier brings a bit of fire to the French resistance, and Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones) vilely capers away as the Nazi commander.
The result is an entertaining ride, that although it doesn’t really break any new ground, fills a curiously empty cinematic sub genre in the otherwise played out zombie milieu (even Dead Snow forgoes the historical setting in favour of the modern). Overlord is the fun, violent, pulpy action film the trailer promises.