Produced by J. J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber
Screenplay by Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith
Story by Billy Ray
Directed by Julius Avery
Starring Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell,
Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Gianny Taufer
Pilou Asbæk, Bokeem Woodbine
“Once upon a time in Nazi-occupied France…”
So began Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 feature Inglourious Basterds, a film that took substantial liberties with its depiction of certain WWII figures and events, kickstarting Tarantino’s fixation with rewriting history for his cinematic antics.
With the trend at the time being to increasingly portray Nazis as multi-faceted characters that sought to depict the men behind the monsters, Tarantino longed for the good old days where Nazis were portrayed as caricatures of the monsters they truly were, and the audience could experience a hearty sense of catharsis as these human monsters would get a fittingly violent comeuppance, be it at the hands of Richard Burton & Co. in Where Eagles Dare or via the wrath of God in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Since the trend of humanizing Nazis and anyone of their ilk has increasingly strayed from the realm of cinema into society as a whole in recent years, the type of over-the-top, video game-like depictions of Nazis and their evil deeds in Overlord therefore comes at the perfect time for those who still perceive Nazis as some of the most callous monsters to ever walk this planet.
Once the true nature of what is going on behind enemy lines is revealed, much like the anti-Nazi comics of the 1940s, Overlord proves to be silly, disposable fun, but it nonetheless offers the viewer a lighthearted, pop cultural release from the current political climate, allowing the viewer to experience a certain degree of catharsis at the expense of disposable caricatures.
That being said, the narrative of Overlord is merely skin-deep, meaning that there are no heavy-handed allegories here to alienate audiences who just want to enjoy a tub of popcorn while a gorefest unfolds before their eyes. Instead, what may alienate some audiences is that Overlord is anything but your traditional war movie, not only due to the narrative concerning a fictitious situation, but also due to the paranormal elements.
As such, another key segment of the target audience for Overlord will be those who have gleefully spent many hours blasting away Nazi abominations in games such as Wolfenstein and Call of Duty; while no direct association is made with the aforementioned gaming franchises, some gamers may feel like they are finally seeing a sliver of what a narrative based on such games could look like on the silver screen.
However, that is not to say that Overlord is without flaws. The film takes a while a to get started, and during the more quiet moments in the beginning of the film in particular, the drama is not overly convincing. This is mostly due to reliance on cliches taken from better movies, and some of the acting and dialogue therefore feels somewhat stale and forced due to its over-reliance on WWII movie stereotypes.
That being said, once Overlord kicks into gear and goes completely off the rails with its ludicrous plot, it is difficult to not get carried away by the playful energy of a production where everyone both in front of and behind the camera clearly had a great time making a film that will likely thrill gorehounds, gamers and popcorn munchers with a strong stomach alike.
Placing itself somewhere between Inglourious Basterds and the Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow in terms of both ridiculousness and production value, Overlord is far from a masterpiece of the various genres it utilizes to tell its story.
However, as a paranormal Nazi horror film, it delivers in its latter half in particular, and much like the gory imaginings of a playful Tarantino, it may as well have opened with a title card slyly announcing the true nature of its outlandish, but entertaining storyline.
Verdict: 7 out of 10.