Jovan Adepo makes an endearingly sweaty conduit for the audience, even if his character lacks the nuance and depth to be particularly memorable. The rest of the cast are too endearing to be just cannon fodder, with fun turns from the likes of Wyatt (son of Kurt) Russell, John Magaro and Bokeem Woodbine. Woodbine’s time on screen is limited but he does he get the request rousing-colonel-speech that all war movies need. Mathilde Ollivier brings a nice intensity to the film’s only major film part. Everyone is game for the silliness, whilst the deaths, when they come, achieve a kick. There’s a conflict in Overlord between its goofier, schlockier side and its pursuit to be a classy war flick, a cut price Saving Private Ryan, something which the ensemble handle surprisingly well.
At times Overlord feels like a relic, pulled from an era of cinema where studios made big budget high concept genre flicks. You have to admire the creative behind it and their willingness to just make the film they want. Writers Mark L. Smith (The Revenant) and Billy Ray (Shattered Glass, Captain Philips) bring a surprising amount of prestige to such a hokey endeavour, whilst director Julius Avery holds the whole thing together with enough charm to keep audiences interested.
This being a J.J. Abrahams produced genre joint you can be damn sure the narrative evolves in a twistedly enjoyable way. The big reveal of what those pesky Nazis are up to is a gradual one, building to a second half shift that feels surprisingly organic. Fair warning, if you’ve seen any of the trailers (or heck seen some of the posters) you’ll be aware of what’s coming. One day Hollywood will pay for the way it constantly ruins films through exuberant marketing. After are a tempered first two acts, proceedings certainly escalate as Overlord builds to its finale.
Little in Overlord quite matches the film’s opening ten minutes and it’s unlikely you’ll remember it in years to come. But it’s a fun ride, with a game, endearing cast and fun internal conflict between its classy war elements and the goofier genre ones. In an increasingly barren wasteland for studio horror maybe we should appreciate the ones that do make it out.