It's D-Day and a group of US paratroopers (Wyatt Russell, John Magaro, Jovan Adepo and Dominic Applewhite) are tasked with destroying a radio tower housed inside a church in a sleepy French village near Normandy. However, when they make their way into the village, they discover a human experiment lab that is attempting to create Nazi super-soldiers through a serum that turns them into zombies.
You've no doubt read that summary of 'Overlord' and pretty much made your decision whether to watch it based right on that. The premise is so straightforward, so clearly rooted in schlocky B-movie horror, that it's kind of exciting to see it come back around on cinemas again.
Rest assured that 'Overlord' is exactly what you think it is, and exactly what the trailers have shown you so far. It's a loud, raucous, gleefully violent action-horror that makes for grisly entertainment. The opening scene sees a group of grizzled US soldiers flying over the flak cannons of Normandy, led by a mysterious bomb expert, all as they introduce themselves in the usual fashion. There's the mouthy Noo Yawker, there's the religious one, there's the quiet one, there's the scaredy cat, and then there's the French resistance supporter they meet when they land in France. Whilst there, they have to battle a gloriously evil Nazi officer who's running security for the gloriously evil Nazi scientist intent on making gloriously evil Nazi zombies.
Again, 'Overlord' is one of the few World War II movies in the past few decades that makes it clearly that murdering Nazis is not only a good thing, but something necessary. There's none of the examination you'll find in something like, say, 'Downfall' or even Netflix's 'Operation Finale'. The Nazis here are cartoon villains, and seeing them being beaten, shot, tortured, set on fire and blown up is exactly what they deserve.
While the characters may be somewhat two-dimensional, director Julius Avery and the script by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith keeps the action moving forward so that we're never alone with them for too long to notice. At 109 minutes, it keeps a brisk pace, balancing the horror and the action neatly across the runtime. There's a couple of scenes where it drags itself out just a little bit too much, or belabours a point that's already clear, but so what? It's all so much fun that a little bit of breather now and then doesn't hurt.
Wyatt Russell plays the grunting, snarling paratrooper to a tee, channeling his father's knack for creating a screen presence out of somewhat clunky lines. Pilou Asbaek, meanwhile, is having the time of his life playing the evil Nazi officer and chews up the scenery as much as you'd expect and demand from a movie like this.
When you come right down to it, 'Overlord' is a big, dumb action-horror movie that so clearly wears its influences on its sleeve, is so clearly enjoying the ridiculousness of itself, that it's hard not to love it.