The independent news organization of Duke University

'Overlord': An excellent World War II zombie adventure

film review

"Overlord" follows a group of paratroopers meant to destroy a radio tower in an old church, but they find more than they expected.
"Overlord" follows a group of paratroopers meant to destroy a radio tower in an old church, but they find more than they expected.

The day is June 6, 1944 and groups of American battleships and troop transport planes approach the European shore. 

Operation Overlord has begun and, as the first stage of the offensive, the aerial division has been tasked with disabling a German radar and communications tower in a church near the shore. The church is responsible for relaying information about incoming Allied planes to German anti-air guns. Disabling the tower would allow for Allied bombers to sweep the nearby areas and for the advancement of the land forces. However, the Germans read this plan of attack and decimate the incoming aerial offensive. When all is said and done, the only survivors left to complete the mission are an explosives expert, a translator, a photographer and a sniper. As the group tries to carry out their mission, they begin to realize not all is as it appears in this town and that sometimes the House of God spits out spawns of Satan.

“Overlord” is an action-packed joy ride that keeps the audience guessing. At its core, it is a World War II film that sees a small group of four soldiers attempt to overcome the odds against them and successfully complete the mission. However, as the mission plays out, things take a turn for the supernatural, and what was once a war adventure becomes a zombie thriller. As the film rises to a climax, the viewer is reminded that there is a price for immortality and playing God.

Perhaps the reason "Overlord" is so enjoyable is that it is a completely new take on the zombie genre. Zombie movies like “Zombieland” and “I Am Legend” depict a post apocalyptic, zombie infested world, and the protagonists simply try to survive each scenario thrown their way, making the films more about their survival and less about achieving a goal. “Overlord,” like other zombie films, does begin with an apocalyptic event, but this event is a backdrop, a catalyst for the film, not the its substance. 

The zombies also have a unique appearance. In films like “World War Z”, the zombies look largely like regular people, with the only differentiator being their greyish color. “Overlord” builds on this concept by adding facial deformities, severed limbs and protruding veins to demonstrate to the viewer that not all is right with these people anymore. The credit here has to be given to the makeup team. It is rare in film that the makeup transcends simply the actor’s appearance and acts as a medium for the story, but “Overlord” accomplishes this goal. A theme throughout the film is that those who have become zombies are not the same anymore and have lost who they once were. The overall strained and grotesque appearance of the zombies illustrates to the audience that they are unrecognizable to those who knew them before.

Another aspect that stands out is the performance of the cast, particularly the performances of Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell. Adepo gives his first lead performance as Private Ed Boyce, who exhibits great change over the course of the film as he moves from a passive bystander to an active leader. Adepo is able to effectively shows this transformation while also responding to the horrific environment, truly demonstrating the actor’s range. 

Russell gives a strong performance in the supporting role in this film. He plays the part of an emotionally scarred explosives expert who is dead set on completing the mission at any cost. He does a good job capturing the ruthless nature of the character and convincing the audience of his many questionable actions. Although great, these performances would be nothing without the outstanding directing of Julius Avery. He may not be a household name yet, but Avery truly demonstrates he has the potential to become one through the way he utilizes the age old lesson of showing versus telling to progress the plot. 

"Overlord" challenges the zombie genre standard to create a film unlike any made before. The use of excellent makeup instead of CGI adds a layer of depth to the story and help add to the horror element of the film. The strong performances of the cast complement well-directed scenes to make a scary and engaging zombie adventure thriller.

Comments