In ‘Over­lord,’ black and Jew­ish sol­diers take on Nazi zom­bies in a WWII splat­ter­fest

The Kansas City Star - - Fyi Movies - BY KATIE WALSH Tri­bune News Ser­vice

It’s the evening of June 5, 1944, when Amer­i­can sol­diers in a small batal­lion hur­tle out of a fiery cargo plane over the Nor­mandy coast. It’s an ex­plo­sive open­ing se­quence that in­tro­duces both “Over­lord” and the vi­sion of its di­rec­tor, Julius Av­ery, with quite the bang.

These killer first five min­utes sig­nal we’re in for a wild ride with this dark, in­tense and bloody take on a World War II flick.

We’re taken on the jour­ney through the eyes of a ner­vous new­bie pri­vate named Boyce (Jo­van Adepo), who is all wide eyes and em­pa­thy and wouldn’t even kill a mouse. He’s sur­rounded by your stan­dard-is­sue WWII movie types. There’s Ford (Wy­att Russell), a griz­zled, scarred ex­plo­sives ex­pert who’s seen some things. There’s the fast-talk­ing Tib­bet (John Ma­garo), whose bark is worse than his bite, and swag­ger­ing Sgt. Rensin (Bo­keem Wood­bine), who in­forms the boys of their mis­sion to take out a Nazi ra­dio jam­mer on a tower so planes can guide Amer­i­can ships to vic­tory on D-Day.

Only a few make it through the crash land­ing, and soon, the GIs have taken over the home of a head­strong young French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ol­livier), who is har­bor­ing her brother Paul (Gianny Taufer) and sick aunt while en­dur­ing the af­fec­tions of Nazi com­man­der Wafner (Pilou As­baek). Al­though the mis­sion is to take down the tower, it soon be­comes clear there’s far more hor­ror go­ing on be­hind the walls of the Nazi com­mand cen­ter, and our moral com­pass, Boyce, de­mands some­thing be done about it.

Writ­ten by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith, “Over­lord” takes its cues from Quentin Tarantino’s “In­glou­ri­ous Bas­terds,” us­ing pres­tige war flick trap­pings to van­dal­ize his­tory books with a wild rewrit­ing. It’s gory, utopian fan fic­tion that imag­ines, “What if the night be­fore D-Day a bunch of black and Jew­ish Amer­i­can sol­diers fought off Nazi zom­bies?”

Av­ery has sprin­kled ref­er­ences to clas­sic Uni­ver­sal mon­ster movies, ’80s ac­tion-hor­ror flicks like “The Thing” (which starred Russell’s dad, Kurt), even shades of Gore Verbin­ski’s re­cent Ger­manic sicko epic “A Cure for Well­ness,” with all the damp un­der­ground labs and hideous ex­per­i­men­ta­tion.

“Over­lord” opens with Sarge declar­ing Nazis are “rot­ten” and “want to de­stroy any­thing good in this world.” We shouldn’t need the re­minder, but sadly, some seem to have missed this his­tory les­son. There’s no ques­tion about where “Over­lord” comes down on Nazis – there’s no ba­nal­ity of evil here, just pure evil-evil.

These Nazis are rapists and tor­tur­ers and mur­der­ers so caught up with their own delu­sions of ab­so­lute dom­i­na­tion, they un­der­es­ti­mate the power of a scrappy, brave, re­source­ful band of Amer­i­cans who are will­ing to stand up to them. It is sig­nif­i­cant that in this vi­sion of re­vi­sion­ist re­venge, the ones who pre­vail against the Nazis are those who would be marginal­ized and tar­geted by them – along with their al­lies. For all its bloody ca­coph­ony, “Over­lord” doesn’t lose sight of that.

PARA­MOUNT PIC­TURES

Boyce (Jo­van Adepo, left) and Rosen­feld (Do­minic Ap­ple­white) take on some es­pe­cially vi­cious Nazis.

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