Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker, Jacob Anderson, Dominic Applewhite, Gianny Taufer, Joseph Quinn, Bokeem Woodbine, Erich Redman, Mark McKenna, Hayley Carmichael, Marc Rissmann
Written by: Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith, based on a story by Billy Ray
Directed by: Julius Avery
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content
Running Time: 109
Date: 11/09/2018

Overlord (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Thugs of War

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Something like Inglourious Basterds meets Re-Animator, this surprising, ultra-gory hybrid movie is more fun than a typical war movie, and more intense than a typical horror movie, would have been.

In Overlord, several American soldiers have the task of parachuting into France to knock out a Nazi radio transmitter in a church. They only have several hours to do this, before American forces land at Normandy. But their plane is shot down, and several men don't survive the landing. Only Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), and a few others make it.

In the woods, they spy a French woman, Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who lives near the church. She decides to help them. But something is very wrong with Chloe's aunt. Then, a Nazi officer (Pilou Asbaek) intrudes and complicates matters. Things become yet more complicated when Boyce finds his way into the basement of the church and discovers a secret laboratory, with astonishing, horrifying experiments under way. Our small band of ragtag Americans must face impossible odds if the day is to be saved.

Produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by Julius Avery (Son of a Gun), Overlord goes along for its first hour as if it were just an ordinary war movie, albeit one that's rather noisy and with quite a lot of shaky-cam. But it's a good story, with interesting characters, and it works. Then, not unlike From Dusk Till Dawn — which suddenly morphs from one kind of movie into another kind — this one goes completely bonkers.

For a while, Avery drops a few curious hints, and then the surprises keep getting bigger and more shocking. Curiously, his camerawork improves here as well, roaming the spaces of Chloe's home, with its nifty attic space, and the lower reaches of the church with its bubbling wells of mysterious ooze and racks of sinister scientific equipment, with new clarity and purpose.

Despite a few cliches, the performances are likewise rich, with Adepo (Fences) bringing a strong sense of good into the den of nastiness. As a bonus, the screenplay by Billy Ray (Captain Phillips and Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) ponders the concept of evil in an interesting way, specifically the pure evil of Nazis compared to the violent methods used by the Americans in attempting to stop them.

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