Directed By: Julius Avery
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk
There's an image in Julius Avery's Overlord that's been stuck in my mind over the last week since I saw the film. Set on the night before D-Day, the film opens with a team of paratroopers being flown in to France to destroy a Nazi radio tower set up at a church so that the Allies can safely storm Normandy, only to have their plane shot down. Young private Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) survives the event and finds himself wandering the woods alone in search of other members of his team, which includes a sniper named Tibbet (John Magaro), a photographer named Chase (Iain De Caestecker), and corporal/demolitions expert Ford (Wyatt Russell).
Eventually, what remains of the team reunite to push on with their mission, encountering a young woman named Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier) who lives in the village that the Germans have occupied. Though she helps them hide from the Nazis that patrol the streets, taking random townsfolk from their homes to undergo experiments performed by a mysterious Nazi doctor at the church, so that they can plan the destruction of the tower, time is against them, and as things begin to snowball, they learn the horrible truth about what's really going on at the church.
I won't say anything more about where the film goes from there, but I will say this: The image that I've been returning to is early in the film, not long after Boyce has set foot in France, gunfire and explosions sounding off in the distance. At one point, the camera lingers on the somber sight of several bodies hanging from trees, soldiers dead from failed landings whose parachutes make their limp bodies look like sleeping marionettes, all silhouetted against a foggy, fiery backdrop. It's such a simple illustration of the many horrors of war, understated and easy to blink and miss, but the image in all its haunting glory sums up what's so effective about the film as a whole.
Overlord doesn't burden itself by trying to do too much. Its ambitions are grounded even if the stakes everything is riding on are incredibly high. It takes liberties with real world history, of course, and the last act takes steps into a fantastical horror arena, but for much of its runtime, Overlord is a very solid war movie that finds strength – like its characters – in sticking to the mission. These troops need to succeed with what little time they have to ensure that the storming of Normandy can happen and history can be changed forever, and the film works hard to ensure that no one ever loses sight of that goal no matter what new development unfolds.
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