‘Overlord’ is a twisted, sci-fi infused take on world war 2

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As far as war movies go, 2018 hasn’t had an excellent track record. With sub-par movies like “12 Strong”, “7 Days in Entebbe”, and the more recent “Hunter Killer”, the war genre has been due for a win. Thankfully, the JJ Abrams-produced “Overlord” is the home run war movie that 2018 has been waiting for.

Set in a small, German-occupied village in France, “Overlord” follows the journey of Boyce (Jovan Adepo), an American soldier tasked with destroying a German communications base on the eve of D-Day. While that synopsis may seem deceptively standard for a movie about world war 2, don’t let it fool you – “Overlord” is by no means a standard genre entry.

The most intriguing and exciting aspect of the movie is it’s willingness defy genre conventions. Though it takes a minute to really get going, “Overlord” infuses the familiar war with sci-fi and horror elements that make it stand out from the crowd. While going into greater detail would require spoilers, the visual design alone is an indicator of how the creative team played around with audience expectations.

Reanimated corpses, talking disembodied heads, and half-faced nazi haunt the halls of the underground church in which the majority of the film’s third act takes place, and as we follow our heroes deeper and deeper into its walls, “Overlord” toes the line between sci-fi, war, and straight up horror.

Another aspect of the film which pleasantly surprised me was it’s leading man. Jovan Adepo is a relative newcomer to Hollywood, with his only other notable credits being the film adaption of the play “Fences”, which received several Oscar nods in 2016. Far from the picture of the Schwarzenegger-esque macho action hero, Adepo’s Boyce is a quiet, reserved protagonist who brings a surprisingly grounded moral aspect to an otherwise wildly violent film.

Boyce’s meekness is a nice contrast to the rest of the more bombastic ensemble cast that you’d expect from this type of movies. Standouts from the ensemble included Wyatt Russell’s imposing Corporal Ford, John Magaro as the more comedically-inclined Tibbet, and the surprisingly lovable child actor Gianny Taufer.

The rest of the cast is serviceable but not incredibly memorable, with the exception of a stellar scene with “Agent’s of Shield”’s Iain DeCaestecker. If and when you see the movie, you’ll know exactly which scene i’m talking about. A running theme with the movie’s most memorable scenes is stellar practical effects and clever pacing, and those two elements reflect the film’s strengths as a whole.

When it comes to weaknesses, “Overlord” tends to suffer when it isn’t leaning into it’s more bizarre side. The romantic subplot feels forced and out of place in a movie about zombie nazis, and the third act villain doesn’t seem nearly as imposing as he should, especially given the previously established stakes. Those aforementioned stakes are probably my biggest gripe with the film: it never seems to be willing to go all the way with its premise. While it certainly has some very strong moments, I kept wishing for it to go further and completely commit to being what it is – an exciting, gory romp through world war two.

“Overlord” is undeniably at its best when it stops trying to adhere to a formulaic plot, and just submits to the absurdity and goriness of its premise. While it may not be in the running for any awards come Oscar season, it’s certainly the perfect popcorn movie for anybody looking to kill a friday night.