Thriller is ‘pulpy, gory fun’

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - RAFER GUZ­MAN NEWSDAY

Over­lord

★★★ (out of 4) Writ­ten by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith. Directed by Julius Avery. Star­ring Jo­van Adepo, Wy­att Rus­sell and Mathilde Ol­livier. At GTA the­atres. 109 min­utes. 18A

The open­ing black and white im­ages of Amer­i­can fighter planes over the At­lantic sug­gest that Julius Avery’s Over­lord is go­ing to be a straight-ahead Se­cond World War film.

The Amer­i­can para­troop­ers we meet en route to France are as stock as they come, from the bat­tle-hard­ened Cpl. Ford (Wy­att Rus­sell) to sen­si­tive Pte. Boyce (Jo­van Adepo), a new­bie whose met­tle is about to be tested. If we didn’t know bet­ter, we could be watch­ing Dunkirk, The Big Red One or a hokey old favourite like Mid­way.

We do know bet­ter, of course. At some point, Over­lord is go­ing to switch from Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan to full-on zom­bie-hor­ror flick, with bloody exit wounds, blasted faces, charred flesh and other meaty ef­fects.

We’re watch­ing a genre jackin-the-box of a movie, some­thing like Preda­tor, a mil­i­tary sur­vival story that turned into a sci­ence fic­tion story, or From Dusk Till Dawn, a noirish thriller-cum-su­per­nat­u­ral ac­tion­com­edy. Like those movies, Over­lord knows the value of keep­ing a straight face un­til it’s time to spring the sur­prise.

Even bet­ter, Over­lord comes with vis­ceral di­rec­tion from rel­a­tive un­known Avery ( Son of a Gun) and a slick script by Billy Ray ( Cap­tain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith ( The Revenant).

One rea­son we get at­tached to Boyce is that we’re lit­er­ally at­tached to him as he plum­mets from his plane into Nazi-oc­cu­pied France, one of the movie’s more dazzling dis­plays of cam­era work. The scenes within the home of a pretty French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ol­livier), who has be­come the favourite of SS Of­fi­cer Wafner (Pi­lou As­baek), crackle with ten­sion. Even the gun bat­tles have more zip than you might ex­pect from a movie of this ilk.

The fun re­ally starts when Boyce finds his way into a Nazi com­pound and dis­cov­ers a lab­o­ra­tory full of zom­bies: dead Ger­man sol­diers and French lo­cals who have been brought back to life with a serum that also grants su­per­hu­man strength. “A thou­sand-year Re­ich,” Herr Wafner help­fully ex­plains, “needs thou­sand-year sol­diers.”

Over­lord has a bit of a video game feel at times, though that just adds to the over­all sense of pulpy, gory fun.

What does the movie’s ti­tle re­fer to, you ask? There’s a D-Day con­nec­tion that sews ev­ery­thing to­gether quite nicely. At any rate, best not to ask too many ques­tions.

PARA­MOUNT PIC­TURES

Jo­van Adepo (left, with Do­minic Ap­ple­white), plays a new­bie whose met­tle is about to be tested in Over­lord.

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