‘Over­lord’: WWII flick meets B-movie splat­ter­fest

Las Vegas Review-Journal - - NEVADA - By Katie Walsh Tri­bune News Ser­vice

It’s the evening of June 5, 1944, when a small bat­tal­ion of Amer­i­can sol­diers hur­tles out of a fiery cargo plane over the Nor­mandy coast.

It’s an ex­plo­sive open­ing se­quence that in­tro­duces “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. If any­one ever wished “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan” were more of a B-movie splat­ter­fest, “Over­lord” is the pic­ture for you.

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, never bet­ter), a griz­zled, scarred ex­plo­sives ex­pert. There’s the fasttalk­ing 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 such as “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. Turn that all the way up to 11, and you have the loud, jar­ring and bru­tally vi­o­lent “Over­lord.”

The movie 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 hubris­tic evil evil. Think the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Nazis, only a lot scarier.

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.

Peter Moun­tain

Para­mount Pic­tures Jo­van Adepo as Boyce in a scene from “Over­lord.”

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