You know, a J.J. Abrhams film that isn’t full of more lens flares than unexplained red goo just doesn’t feel right. It’s like a superhero film not being full of instantly dated CGI, Meryl Streep giving a bad performance, Michael Bay turning in a tender, understated film that’s generating Oscar buzz, or even a James Corden film that’s actually watchable- it’s just wrong somehow. It would be a nice change but it’s just not the way that the universe should work.
But, here we are. not once in the 110 minutes that Overlord was on the screen, was there a single lens flare. And I should know because I hardly blinked during the entire run-time.
Hell, this film could have been tailor made for me. Set the night before D-Day, we follow a pair of American soldiers who have to blow up a radio tower before 6am the next morning otherwise the D-Day landings could fail. Their drop goes wrong and they find themselves severely outnumbered, low on supplies, men and morale. Surrounded by the most cartoonishly evil Nazis this side of a saturday morning cartoon and with the growing realisation that there’s something terrible happening in the church which could change the entire course of the war.
There’s no CGI (bar a few really bad planes in the first ten minutes) no flashbacks explaining who everyone is and how they got that way, people die – a lot of people die and director Julius Avery (who’s also working on a Flash Gordon reboot with Matthew Vaughn which should be interesting….) is clearly relishing the fact that this is an 18 movie by putting in exploding heads, body transformations, some nightmarish visuals and gruesome deaths among other treats.
It was tense and exciting with very little let up since the film takes the Saving Private Ryan approach to it’s opening scenes (except not as good obviously, I mean the Saving Private Ryan opening scene is the best movie scene of all time.) With characters who were sort of introduced just being casually murdered, leaving us to realize that no-body is safe, and as a result, the screen frequently hums with tension.
In fact, were it not for the Darth Vader breathing constantly complaining to no-one in particular about the levels of violence in a rated 18 film Muppet sitting next to me, my screening would have been in perfect silence.
This is the best B-Movie I’ve seen in the cinema in years.
It’s not perfect though, like I said, the few Nazis that do get any character development and arent just goons to be shot are pretty much Saturday morning cartoons and, with such an important deadline, there should have been much more of a sense of a ticking clock. The knowledge that if these men fail then D-Dy itself might be at risk. Also, for a horrifically well guarded fortress, the Nazis central base is pretty easy to slip in and out of. For films like this to really work, the tension has to be built up to unbearable levels and kept there, with an ever more terrified soldier with ever dwindling and ever more ineffective ammunition being attacked by mutated monstrosities all the while aware that thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of men’s lives hang by the single thread that is own life and, whilst there was some of that, the fact that the main characters would pop in, suffer a few jump scares and then pop home for a cup of tea before trying again twenty precious minutes later did let down some of the tension.
Also, either Third Reich soldiers had one hell of a union when it came to their own tea breaks or this lot were hired from a home for the audio and visually impaired because there were at least four or five times where our ostensibly stealthy heroes decide to start firing guns in the middle of an under curfew village, right next to at least two Nazis! French soundproofing must be incredible.
And, whilst I got that these soldiers weren’t going to be telling us their life story, a bit of depth would have gone down nicely. Along with a few jokes – a bit of black humor goes down a treat in these films. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything along the lines of Dog Soldiers “I am not breaking radio silence just cos’ you lot got spooked by a dead flying fucking cow.” But, a few quips here and there would be appreciated.
There’s a few little niggles as well. Our soldiers all seem to have unlimited ammunition, there’s a possibly enhanced dog that just vanishes, there were a few shots which existed purely to be in the trailers (there were all glossy and slo-mo and seemed really out of place.) Soldiers of African heritage weren’t integrated with Caucasian units during World War II (which could have been fixed really easily) but there’s no real deal breakers just lots of little things that only added up when I started writing my script.
All in all though, Overlord did it’s job really well. It’s a good, gory, violent, tense, movie (with unexplained red goo) that I could happily pop on when it comes out on download. Hell, I even liked the child actor. With a touch more tension and maybe some black humor this could have been a great movie.
My Score- See It