Nazi zom­bie movie lacks heart

Block­buster fea­tures plenty of ac­tion, light on depth

Winnipeg Free Press - - ARTS / LIFE / MOVIES - RAN­DALL KING ran­dall.king@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @Freep­King

MOVIE RE­VIEW

OVER­LORD

Star­ring Jo­van Adepo and Wy­att Rus­sell

● Polo Park, St. Vi­tal, Towne

● 18A ● 110 min­utes

★★½ out of five SMALL pla­toon of sol­diers takes on a se­cret as­sign­ment to de­stroy a se­cret Ger­man out­post in France where, to their amaze­ment, some sin­is­ter ex­per­i­ments are un­der­way in­volv­ing bi­o­log­i­cal weaponry.

Cu­ri­ously, the plot of the new J.J. Abrams-pro­duced stu­dio thriller Over­lord bears a pro­nounced re­sem­blance to the rel­a­tively small-time indie thriller Trench 11, shot in Man­i­toba a cou­ple of years back and re­leased this sum­mer, right down to the match­ing log­lines.

Where Trench 11 has a le­git­i­mate claim to the sta­tus of low-bud­get indie, Over­lord is clearly the prod­uct of big­ger money. It is set dur­ing the fi­nal days of the Sec­ond World War (as op­posed to Trench 11’s Great War epoch) find­ing an as­sort­ment of sol­diers parachut­ing through heavy fire into ru­ral France. (This open­ing se­quence trans­poses Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan-style com­bat car­nage into the key of B-movie.)

Once they’re be­hind en­emy lines, a quar­tet of sol­diers dis­cover the church where the Nazis have built a com­mu­ni­ca­tions tower that hap­pens to be crawl­ing with Ger­man sol­diers un­der the com­mand of a par­tic­u­larly heinous SS

Aof­fi­cer named Wafner (Pi­lou As­baek). There is more go­ing on here than com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

They learn this first-hand af­ter they come to the aid of one of the few re­main­ing French vil­lagers, Chloe (Mathilde Ol­livier) whose wheez­ing sickly aunt, a guinea pig in a Nazi doc­tor’s ex­per­i­ment, looks like the off­spring of an un­holy mar­riage be­tween The Thing and The Blob. At this point, it should be noted that while the film’s con­tent will veer into the gory-grotesque vein of the ’80s hor­ror clas­sic Re-An­i­ma­tor, its main build­ing blocks are very much con­structed from the clas­sic pla­toon-on-a-mis­sion movie.

The main pro­tag­o­nist Boyce (Jo­van Adepo) has a rep­u­ta­tion for cow­ardice that he is obliged to over­come.

Lt. Ford (Wy­att Rus­sell) is the re­luc­tant com­man­der who is nev­er­the­less bent on achiev­ing his mis­sion what­ever the cost. Tib­bett (John Ma­garo) is a hard-bit­ten, cyn­i­cal big-city wiseguy who will none­the­less come through when the chips are down. And so forth.

In any other movie, that would feel like a charm­ing homage. But here, it feels like screen­writer Billy Ray was just kind of grasp­ing at straws to de­liver some kind of char­ac­ters with whom we could get on side in ex­pe­di­ent fash­ion.

Un­der the di­rec­tion of Julius Av­ery, we are only just suf­fi­ciently in­vested to stay with it when the ac­tion starts get­ting over-the-top as our brave lads face off against, for lack of a bet­ter de­scrip­tion, Nazi zom­bies.

This is not the first Nazi zom­bie movie, kids. In fact, it’s been a per­sis­tent lit­tle sub­genre dat­ing back to the 1960s (The Frozen Dead), the ’70s (Shock Waves) and well into the new mil­len­nium (Out­post, Dead Snow).

A sound ra­tio­nale for Nazi zom­bie movies re­mains. As we’ve seen in the past cou­ple of years, Nazis, like the ranks of the un­dead, do keep com­ing back.

But even in a film where the main pro­tag­o­nist is black, the movie is cu­ri­ously ret­i­cent about ad­dress­ing the whole “mas­ter race” thing in any mean­ing­ful fash­ion, no mat­ter how per­ti­nent the is­sue has be­come. That stuff seems to have got­ten lost in the film’s big-bud­get-block­buster mis­sion.

One can’t help feel­ing the film might have been bet­ter off as a small, scrappy movie. Sure, it would mean a pos­si­ble down­grade of pro­duc­tion val­ues. But there might also be a re­deem­ing aug­men­ta­tion: the right­eous rebel heart of a true indie.

PHO­TOS BY PARAMOUNT PIC­TURES

Jo­van Adepo (left) stars as Boyce along­side Do­minic Ap­ple­white as Rosen­feld in Over­lord, a movie set in the Sec­ond World War.

PARAMOUNT PIC­TURES

Sol­diers un­cover hor­rific Nazi ex­per­i­ments in Over­lord.

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