Arriving in cinemas stripped of any obvious links to producer JJ Abrams Cloverfield series, Overlord still can't quite shake the familiar feeling of being a bigger budgeted Twilight Zone episode. This time mixing the sci-fi is with Saving Private Ryan.
After an impressively explosive opening sequence which introduces a plethora of American WWII Paratroopers only to have them ripped apart by anti-aircraft fire, Overlord settles into typical men-on-a-mission format with the surviving troops tasked with taking out a Nazi radio jamming tower, hours ahead of the D-day landings. Unfortunately they find that the French town surrounding their target harbours more horrors than just Nazis, and if you've seen any of the marketing for this movie you already know what that is. It's basically Nazi zombies, which makes it baffling why the film takes so long to get to the monster bash. If the film had been billed purely as a WWII drama then the twist may have been a pleasant M. Night Shyamalan style surprise, but as it is you end up killing time waiting for the characters to catch up with the audience and for the mayhem to begin.
That's not to say Overlord is in any way a bad film. It looks great and the actions sequences are decent, but none really stick in the mind. The performances are all solid, with Jovan Adepo providing an honourable if reluctant hero, butting heads with Wyatt Russell's Sergeant (who will constantly remind you of his father Kurt). John Magaro fulfils the apparently obligatory Italian wiseguy role with aplomb, and Ghost in the Shell's Pilou Asbæk provides a fittingly hateful face to the Nazi forces.
The film just can't seem to decide whether it wants to embrace the schlockiness inherent its concept and turn into a period version of Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers, or play it super straight, adding the horror of the monsters on top of the already horrific realities of war. The pacing also feels a little off with the band of brothers hanging out in an attic until what feels like the last possible moment to achieve their mission, while Boyce fumbles his way in and out of the heavily guarded Nazi encampment. This detour feels like it's only there so the characters can catch up with the audience on the monster front, but it's too early in the movie for the final assault.
Overlord is an enjoyable action film but falls just short of greatness. It's not quite the Castle Wolfenstein movie you've been waiting for.
OVERLORD / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JULIUS AVERY / SCREENPLAY: BILLY RAY, MARK L. SMITH / STARRING: JOVAN ADEPO, WYATT RUSSELL, MATHILDE OLLIVIER, PILOU ASBAEK, JOHN MAGARO, IAIN DE CAESTECKER / RELEASE DATE: 7TH NOVEMBER (UK), 9TH NOVEMBER (US)