Review: ‘Overlord’

If there’s one thing that can be said for Overlord, it’s that it surprised me. From what I gleaned from the trailers, I went in expecting a generic war film, admittedly with some gruesome zombies and awesome special effects. Initially reported to be the fourth entry in the Cloverfield series, the film has obviously undergone more than its fair share of rewrites, but it doesn’t show in the final product, and what’s left is a wholly satisfying action-horror flick.

The film follows an ever-shrinking squadron of American paratroopers on the eve of D-Day (hence the title, ‘Overlord’) as they infiltrate a village in Nazi-occupied France in an attempt to take out a German radio tower in an old church. They soon discover a secret experiment taking place beneath the religious dwelling which tests them as a team in a high-stakes battle against both the living and the undead.

Initially, this might sound like the plot of a Wolfenstein game. The two admittedly share some similarities – the infiltration of a Nazi base, living and undead enemies. One of the film’s key plot points in fact involves a character retreading a path he already has taken… eerily reminiscent of a respawn mechanic. In full disclosure, the use of the word ‘undead’ is somewhat disingenuous; the ‘zombies’ in this film aren’t exactly zombies, rather mutant humans, much stronger and more damage-resistant than their regular counterparts. Powerup anyone? These video game allusions, whether intentional or not, do little to hurt the film though. In fact, they make it much more enjoyable, particularly for a gamer like myself.

The main draw of the film for me was the special effects, and the production team certainly do not disappoint. Most notably, in the films impressive opening, a swarm of allied planes float above a storm-swept sea, the deafening roar of enemy cannonade rushing around and between them. It’s gloriously epic and set me expectations high. Later, we witness the gut-wrenching transformation of one of the squad into a mutated killing machine. I can safely say that these are some of the best special effects I have ever seen on the big screen.

With a technical powerhouse such as this, character development is likely to suffer, and sadly Overlord is no different from the rest of the crowd. Aside from Jovan Adepo’s heroic Boyce – the film’s star and certainly the most human of them all – the characters are mostly forgettable. Although the cast put in serviceable performances, I didn’t find the film too emotionally tugging – but my girlfriend in the seat next to me did nearer the end, so that’s something. Despite that, I wouldn’t advise going to see this as a ‘date’ film. It’s very gruesome in parts and unlikely to be the first pick for many girls (I got lucky), but A Star Is Born is still on, so consider giving that a go instead.

Overall, although the plot and characterisation suffer, I found Wolfenstein: The New Order Overlord to be a thoroughly enjoyable romp, with excellent production values and exciting action sequences. You’ll find it fun too, as long as you don’t think too hard about it.