“Overlord” begins on June 6, 1944, mere hours before the invasion of Normandy, a region of France, located off of its northern coast. The battle, launched by The Western Allies, was the largest amphibious invasion in history, and was spearheaded by members of the American, U.K. and Canadian armed forces. This film, however, is not about the extraordinarily brave individuals, approximately 209,000 of whom were killed in the battle, fighting to end the oppressive stranglehold the Nazi Third Reich had on the European continent. Instead, it centers on a secret mission, the prime objective of which is to destroy a radio tower located on top of a castle in a French village, which provides communication between Berlin and the German army stationed on the beaches of Normandy. If the soldiers are successful, the destruction of the tower will help to provide protection for Allied air-support. (As an aside: Troops from Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland, also risked their lives, and fought during the battle of Normandy to fight Nazi tyranny).
The intense action that is featured during the 110 minute runtime of “Overlord” doesn’t take long to escalate. The casualties, among the soldiers aboard the plane being flown into occupied France, to carry out the mission, are heavy. Those few who are left, after parachuting to relative safety, find one another while in-route to the village where the castle is located. Among the members of the small band of soldiers is the battle-tested, explosives expert, Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell). He is an individual who is not afraid to forgo proper procedure in order to accomplish the mission. Due to the soldiers’ former commanding officer, Rensin, played by Emmy nominee Bokeem Woodbine (Fargo), being killed, Ford is now the ostensible leader. In addition, included among the remaining soldiers is Private Boyce, portrayed by Jovan Adepo (Fences), a relative newcomer to the war effort. He is doing what his country asks of him, but is repulsed by the carnage; it is revealed to the viewer, that during basic training, Boyce couldn’t even bring himself to kill a mouse that was messing up the barracks. Also, there is the wise-cracking, expert marksman, Tibbet, played by John Magaro (The Umbrella Academy), as well as war photographer, Chase, acted by two-time BAFTA nominee Iain De Caestecker (Agents of Shield).
While the soldiers are making their way through the forest to the castle, they encounter Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a young, French woman. Boyce, who comes from Louisiana, and whose grandmother is Haitian, can speak French, and he is able to let the soldiers’ intentions be known to Chloe. She offers to help them by providing them with shelter at her house, where she lives with her eight-year old brother Paul (Gianny Taufer), and her ill aunt (Meg Foster). Unbeknownst to the soldiers, Chloe and her brother, are being kept from harm, by Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), the village’s commanding officer, who exchanges his protection for intimate evenings with Chloe. She agrees to his terms, because she doesn’t want Paul to be taken away, to be used in the medical experiments conducted by Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman).
As it turns out, the Nazis are guarding more than just a radio tower at the castle; something Boyce learns through a misadventure. Once he makes his way back to his fellow soldiers, and informs them of what is taking place, he insists that the mission be expanded. Surviving the destruction of their plane, navigating through heavily patrolled Nazi occupied France, and hiding out until they can reach the radio tower and destroy it, will be the least of the soldiers problems, during the second half of the film.
“Overlord” was directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun). The screenplay was written by Oscar nominee Billy Ray (Captain Phillips) and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant), based on Ray’s original story. The film premiered on September 22, 2018 at the Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The film is well-paced. It gives you an occasional minute or two to catch your breath from the action, but that doesn’t last long, before a new set of obstacles are placed in the protagonists’ path. The score composed by Jed Kurzel (The Babadook) synchs up perfectly with what is transpiring on screen. Furthermore, cinematographers BAFTA winner Laurie Rose (London Spy) and two-time Emmy nominee Fabian Wagner (Game of Thrones) capture both the mayhem and the quieter moments, in a realistic manner, but also avoided using an all somber color palette for the film. In closing, “Overlord” will not be for everyone; it gets gory in parts, and those who don’t like horror films, will want to skip it; however, for those of you who like well-executed horror, combined with action and adventure, this should be a worthwhile investment of your time.