Watching a group of soldiers go up against something they didn’t train for always makes for thrilling entertainment. We’ve seen troops tackle an array of evil, inhuman opponents in the past, and Julius Avery makes a fairly decent attempt to plant his flag in enemy territory with Overlord. Originally thought to be another chapter of the Cloverfield universe, the Bad Robot production begins with a blistering descent into Nazi-occupied France, where we meet the remnants of a squad tasked with destroying a comms. tower to help the Allied forces on D-Day. As if the mission wasn’t challenging enough, the reluctant man of war Boyce (Jovan Adepo), discovers the enemy is working on something even more lethal beneath the battered streets of a small French village, confirming that there are some horrors of war that should stay dead.
You know the drill by now, soldier. You’ve got the hero not so keen on answering the call when the time comes; the smart mouth who’s pushing every wrong button in his squad; and the battle-hardened hero who is there to do a job and nothing more. It’s a roll call that’s been thrown around from everything from Predator to Saving Private Ryan and Avery has a reasonably decent bunch for this little romp – the only issue is giving them something to do.
While things may get off to a ballistic beginning, there’s an awful lot of peacetime during Overlord that could test your patience. Holding up in the attic of local French villager Chloë (Mathilde Olivier) is a good place to get to know our heroes, but keeping them there does pump the brakes on this twisted little rollercoaster. The fun begins of course, when Boyce goes behind enemy lines, giving a glimpse into the madness just waiting to break out. The small amount we do see is an excellent testament from the work of the special effects team as operating tables are littered with test subjects that aren’t showing the best results and some inhabitants that look to have crawled out somewhere between Hellraiser and Event Horizon.
Thankfully, this gives Avery the green light to go nuts with the monster madness as plenty of body horror flashes, and the classic do-or-die mission gets put into action. Taking charge is Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt), who holds his own and finds a worthy foe in Pilou Asbæk’s Nazi officer, Wafner. As the nightmare unfolds, Russell even shares some eerily familiar MacReady-like moments when it all goes to hell. If his Dad has his own Thing, this is undoubtedly his.
Watching his six is Adepo as Boyce, who is placed to take the spotlight but doesn’t have enough presence to support it. Not only that, but our leading man makes decisions that defy all logic and serve no purpose but to move the story (of what there is) along to its explosive all guts and glory last act. By that point though, the pedal has been firmly applied to the metal, and Avery turns the carnage up so high he’s having too much fun to care. Don’t be surprised if you’re having some of it, as well.