Overlord covers familiar ground with fresh execution

On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss director Julius Avery’s “Overlord” as an over the top and uninspired action flick. And while, yes, the movie brings very few fresh ideas to the table, “Overlord” shines in its attention grabbing execution of those ideas that keeps viewers thrilled from its opening sequence to its bloody finish.

Here’s the setup: it is the eve of the infamous D-Day landing in Normandy, and a force of allied soldiers is tasked with parachuting behind enemy lines to take out a radio tower. Things get complicated when our band of heroes discovers a secret Nazi laboratory under the tower. This slightly bizarre premise is made convincing thanks to its cast—all the actors hold their own and do an excellent job in filling out their rather one-dimensional characters into entertaining and memorable figures.

Right from the start, “Overlord” hooks you with one of the most intense opening sequences I’ve ever seen. The protagonists are parachuting into enemy territory and the deafening roar of airplanes and explosions gave me an edge-of-my-seat experience rarely found in other movies of the genre. This intensity bows a little through the second act of the film, but comes back full force in the third act.

While the ideas of “Overlord” are certainly nothing to write home about, its presentation is exemplary. From the opening shots of the movie I was blown away by both the visual and auditory work. The movie combines a vibrant color palette and convincing visual effects alongside exemplary sound effects to create a truly immersive movie. It’s hard to put into words why the sound design for this movie is so well done, but when you hear it, everything has an authenticity to it. The clatter of weapon handling, gunfire, doors opening and closing, the creaks of floorboards and the echoes of hallways all make the “Overlord” experience that much more rich.

Now, I’m no horror movie fan. I don’t do scary movies and I would not describe “Overlord” as a horror film in any sense. With that said, there were some certainly some uncomfortable images during the laboratory scenes that made my skin crawl, but for good reason. The gore wasn’t gratuitous in my opinion, but rather served the story. When the protagonist Private Boycen, played by Jovan Adepo, returns from the laboratory, he is shaken to his core and stirred into action, and as an audience we are right there with him.

Potentially the most standout element of “Overlord” is this air of B-movie surrounding it: a straightforward concept and simple characters, in a situation susceptible to violence and gore. What makes this film stand out though is that its production takes itself much more seriously than a B-movie. This attitude means you get a “best of both worlds” scenarios, where the violence is impactful and the presentation is strong, while the premise remains fun and absurd. The characters, while fulfilling simple archetypes, are portrayed in a convincing manner, such that they are still relatable and you care about them.

In the end, “Overlord” isn’t a cinematic masterpiece. The story isn’t going to blow you away or have you discussing its twists and turns for days on end. But what “Overlord” will give you is an absolute blast of an evening and a thrill ride rarely found in other blockbusters.

The Parkway West Pathfinder gives “Overlord” a 7/10.