I did little research on this film before watching it. Before going in I knew it had been produced by J.J. Abrams, though I realized this was most likely an attached name to sell an otherwise low budget independent film.
I also knew that the title was a reference to Operation Overlord – the allied name of the Battle of Normandy and D-Day in 1944. A glance at the cast and credits threw up few names I recognized, let alone knew a lot about.
Having explained that, I should inform you that I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I came to it with no preconceived notions of quality, no reviews from others telling me I should watch it, no expectations based on the stars of the film. This is no big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, it is a B-movie and doesn’t proclaim to be anything other.
The film opens as an action film should – getting straight into it. The opening reminds me of the opening of Saving Private Ryan (1998). The craziness of the action during D-Day is not shied away from, instead soon after a pan around the airplane to see the worried faces of the soldiers as they reached the coasts of France on the night before the beach landings.
Shots damage the aeroplane and it begins to fall, the soldiers have to manually evacuate the plane, many losing their lives and falling into the fire as they attempt it.
The action follows Boyce (Jovan Adepo) as he struggles to get off the plane, and the struggles are reflected in the movement of the camera and the close-ups of Boyce’s face.
The audience feels part of the action as he falls through the sky, and feels the pull as the parachute ejects from his back. The noise all around him is oppressive and raises feelings of danger and fear.
The sounds change as the Boyce plunges into the water, falling to the bottom. The water sounds grow in your ears almost like a ticking clock as Boyce attempts to extricate himself from his chute and struggles to the surface before losing air in his lungs.
Watching this I hope that this level of action and engagement continues throughout the movie. Overlord doesn’t fail to deliver; the action seems to be around every corner. Soon after escaping his potential watery grave, Boyce comes across Sergeant Rensin (Bokeem Woodbine), surrounded by German soldiers. Boyce makes to go to his side but is held back by Ford (Wyatt Russell), saving his life as Rensin is quickly dispatched by the Germans.
Boyce and Ford meet up with further members of their team including Tibbett (John Magaro) and Chase (Iain De Caestecker) and together they run into Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier). Chloe takes the group back to her house to avoid Germans, though gets involved with a further shoot out along the way. What can I say, there is constant action; I love it.
Germans are everywhere in the town and in no time at all, they are knocking on the door of the house; not looking for the Allied soldiers but with their leader Wagner (Pilou Asbaek) looking for some hanky panky with Chloe. Once Wagner’s comrades leave, the Allied soldiers capture Wagner and try to use him as a source of information.
Up until this point, if you didn’t know better, you’d believe you were watching an honest to goodness World War Two army action flick, this is until around 45 minutes in. Though in preceding scenes there are hints that something untoward has happened to Chloe’s Aunt (Meg Foster) at the hands of the Germans, she is only shown for seconds through the ajar door to her bedroom.
Upon exploration of the town to complete their mission Boyce ends up hiding in a pile of dead bodies. The bodies on which he is hiding is then transported to a laboratory run by Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman). The film suddenly turns into something quite different.
The violence ramps up further, the genre becomes horror or thriller and the enemy becomes monsters; the results of Dr. Schmidt’s hideous experiments. Boyce’s character changes too, fuelled by what he has seen, he begins to turn from cowardly soldier, too scared to harm even a rat, to someone who will cave in a guy’s head with the stock of his rifle. Watching this character transformation within Boyce is as entertaining as the action going on around him.
Boyce comes into contact with a variety of experiments, some being developed in womb-like sacks of orange liquid hanging from ceilings, to a woman screaming for help revealed to be just a head attached to an exposed spinal column. The reactions sell the scenes as much as the dingy lighting and the makeup effects that create the illusions of this reality.
The incomplete serum that has caused the monstrosities present in the laboratory falls into Boyce’s hands and he manages to make good his escape back to Chloe’s humble abode. Back at the house, Wafner convinces Chase that he is dead, causing Chase to receive two rounds to the chest.
The serum is used as a final attempt to save Chase’s life. The following transformation is not shied away from, instead shown in all its brutality broke necks and all.
Wafner also undergoes serum-induced change after receiving a bullet to the mouth whilst attempting to escape. The visual monster reflective of the monstrous behavior of the Germans in general.
As I have said throughout the review, I thought this film was great for what it was. It was clear a lot of pride and effort had gone into making this film, from makeup effects to the work of the actors, there were strong performances all round. This film never professes to be more than it is, it isn’t Citizen Kane but is a cracking B-movie.