Out of all the wide releases this weekend, instead of seeing the umpteenth version of the Grinch or a unnecessary reboot of a Dragon Tattoo no one asked for, I decided to see J.J. Abram’s produced OVERLORD, which I think was once billed as being in the Cloverfield universe somehow, but really isn’t…it is it’s own unique picture. This is essentially a B-movie plot you’d find in a SciFi Channel Original or some straight to video schlock in a $5 discount bin, but with an A+ production value. What I’m meaning to say is that I enjoyed it quite a bit, and in parts even found it to be great and masterful. At points it even got to being in the realm of fucking badassdom. If I could compare it to another movie, I’d say look at what From Dusk Till Dawn accomplished. From Dust Till Dawn is essentially two movies. The first half of the film is a story of two criminal brothers on a killing/crime spree, and then at about the half way point, it’s a film about surviving the night by a group of vampires. This film starts out as a World War II gritty man on a mission film, and then about half way through…
Well, if you’ve seen the trailers, it looks like zombies right? Trust me when I saw there is a lot more too it than that and when they who, what, where, when, and how is explained, everything is much more satisfying than all the promotional material led you to believe. Some people are calling this is Tarantino remade Inglourious Basterds into a fucked up Sci-Fi B movie, and they happen to be way off. Tarantino has that edge of not taking his films too seriously (funny tidbit is that he wrote and co-starred in From Dusk Till Dawn), always winking at the camera every five or ten minutes. Overlord takes itself completely seriously. No nods or winks to the camera. No subtle dialogue inferring how ridiculous this all is. Completely serious. The first half of the movie completely works as a small scale yet large consequence little 4 man on a mission movie. The plot? To get to this church run by Nazi’s to take down the communication tower before D-Day. The film just starts you in the shit, with troopers about to jump off the plane right in the middle of chaos. No scenes of exposition before about how everyone got there (thank God), instead we just learn about the characters through their action in the film and through little breathing room bits of dialogue the film has (always a great film technique, exposition scenes should’ve died in the 90s).
Obviously what they find there isn’t all that its been cracked up to be. And that’s where I’ll leave it. Again, if you’ve seen the trailers and stuff, you’ve seen some pretty messed up horrific shit, but story wise you’ve only scratched the surface. And that’s where I in parts loved this film, it defies expectations in some areas. It defies expectations some in who lives and who dies. It defies expectations with Wyatt Russell’s (Kurt Russell’s son) Ford character, several times actually. It defies expectations with the “zombies.” The film does have some problems though, one of them being that the four war boys run into this French young woman that takes them in and hides them from the Germans and reveals that her aunt is very “sick” and to not go into her room. Ultimately, I thought this would have some huge payoff in the end but it doesn’t and is very anti-climatic what happens to her. Sometimes, specifically at the beginning, the film was really dark and it was hard at points to see what was going on. And some of the dialogue is a bit bland and choppy at times. But those are minor complaints with how much entertainment value this film has.
I will go even on the record saying that you might enjoy this even if you don’t like horror movies that much. The film is just a lot of fun even though it is completely taking itself seriously. There are a bunch of great other things in this film too. Wyatt Russell has never been better in a film (he is currently on AMC Lodge 49 and played Channing Tatum’s bromance in 22 Jump Street). With his performance here, I say if they ever want to reboot or do another true sequel to the “Escape From: films, that he could even take over his father’s role as Snake Plissken. The real main lead, played by Joven Adepo, is played with perfect innocence, doing what is morally right, until those situations come up where you just have to fight for your life. The young french woman, played by a newcomer, Mathilde Ollivier, plays that bad ass sassy no damsel in distress role perfectly, and John Magaro and Pilou Asbaek play a great comic relief and main bad guy respectively.
Oh, and the make up/CGI effects in this are just fucking amazing and killer. Wonderful job. I’m glad it wasn’t all CGI and I think it could’ve been distracting, instead it does a near perfect mixture, very nice to look at. The action is good, the last 25 minutes is just one big chase action set piece that was very well well directed. And I loved how the movie doesn’t end on how conventional action/horror movies would end. It’s just a very well made fun/serious film that has a lot of heart and originality. A breath of fresh air in a weekend full of umpteenth tries and reboots that I probably will not see in the theater (I had a ticket for Girl In The Spider’s Web on Friday, but returned it, as scathing reviews and my tiredness led me to choose some shut eye, I have no intention of rescheduling). So yeah, Overlord was pretty damn good. Not a masterpiece by any means, but I can see people discovering it at a later date and watching it over and over again. Check it out now if you can though, especially if you can think of a theater with really good sound.