Directed by: Julius Avery
Written by: Mark L. Smith, Billy Ray
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbaek, John Magaro, Iain De Caestecker, Jacob Anderson, Dominic Applewhite
Runtime: 109 min
With only hours until D-Day, a team of American paratroopers drops into Nazi-occupied France to carry out a mission that's crucial to the invasion's success. Tasked with destroying a radio transmitter atop a fortified church, the desperate soldiers join forces with a young French villager to penetrate the walls and take down the tower.
But, in a mysterious Nazi lab beneath the church, the outnumbered G.I.s come face-to-face with enemies unlike any the world has ever seen. From producer J.J. Abrams, Overlord certainly offers high expectations.
First things first: don't you dare miss this one! I never expected to be as entertained and constantly at edge as I felt throughout this film. J.J. Abrams has a tremendous production capability, and Overlord proves it. It incorporates every genre that you can remember of in an almost seamlessly process. I guess I'll start with the beginning since the first 20-30 minutes provide one of the best opening sequences of the last few years.
Overlord is definitely a war movie, and its foundations are actually based on true stories from WWII. Obviously, being J.J. Abrams a sci-fi master, he stretches those stories a bit so we can have a brilliant rollercoaster of genres. Mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, drama, comedy, war, action, ... I mean, every genre that you can think of (well, I guess musical can be excluded) is present in this film, some more than others.
Usually, that is not a good sign because it's extremely hard to balance two/three tones or genres, let alone a whole bunch of them. That said, Julius Avery is one hell of a director! He and his writers were able to mix everything up and still make a cohesive and even claustrophobic movie since it's pretty much one-location after that opening act. Let's go genre by genre ...
War: the best depiction of what a war looks and SOUNDS like since Dunkirk. I watched this on IMAX, and the sound design is unbelievable. I could feel every bullet flying through, and the CGI is eyegasmic. That opening scene with the military flying over the "battlefield" is visually jaw-dropping, and the score elevates the tension by being extremely powerful. Chills all over my body.
Sci-fi/Mystery/Thriller: even though the premise pretty much explains what the Nazis are doing in their medical experiments, the way that Mark L. Smith and Billy Ray structure the film's narrative and write the dialogues is remarkable. Every exposition scene feels natural and rich from a storytelling perspective. It doesn't improve the mystery itself, but it sure helps the audience to navigate through the story.
Horror: it relies on predictable yet effective jump scares, but the "monsters" are very well "designed." With a mix of CGI and makeup, every single scene involving these human experiments is nail-biting great. Whether that's a chasing or fight sequence, or merely a suspense moment where we can't really see the entire human body, the horror vibe is excellently implemented.
Comedy: such a heavy and bloody R-rated flick, needs some sort of relief. Comedy isn't precisely a predominant genre, but John Magaro's character carries an important role. You might be thinking "bah, he is just a bland comic relief character with no decent development," but you're wrong. Tibbet is extremely well-developed! He simply has a funny personality, and he does banter a lot, but throughout the movie, he keeps evolving as a character and ultimately surprises us in the third act. I also love Iain De Caestecker (Chase), and I congratulate him on finally getting a role in a big film!
Drama: Jovan Adepo (Boyce), Wyatt Russell (Ford) and Mathilde Ollivier (Chloe) are what I would call the movie's protagonists. They are the ones that carry most of the story. Adepo is the lead, and he is fantastic, as well as his two counterparts. However, it's due to the amazing characters' scripts that they are able to shine. Every single character in the film (well, except the Nazis, obviously) has a script meant for the audience to care about them.
Every death has an impact, either on the audience or the other characters. There's a ton of ethical dilemmas throughout their mission, and these three are always arguing with each other since everyone thinks differently. Their dialogues are very captivating, and they undoubtedly improve the screenplay. I rarely blinked due to the high level of entertainment and excitement. Story and character-wise, this is one of 2018's best. Pure entertainment AND well-written characters? Count me in!
However, it doesn't end up here. Technically, this movie is impressive and magnificent. I genuinely had my heart pumping hard after that opening sequence (am I repeating myself too much?). The score is intensely sumptuous, the cinematography is impeccable, and the visual effects are out of this world. The action stunts (chases and fights) are so realistic that you can feel every punch, kick, bullet and explosion like you were there.
Julius Avery works the camera in such a mind-blowing way. Even though some scenes require massive CGI, he still produces some one-take wonders. From Boyce jumping from the plane to him running away from explosions going off closer and closer, Avery sure knows his craft of filmmaking. I wanted to give this film an A+ so much, but I can't. I have one and one only minor issue that I can't just ignore.
I wrote above that it mixes each genre ALMOST perfectly ... Midway through the second act, I noticed that this movie wasn't going to escape the fact that it tries to tackle too many genres and tonally, it lacks a bit of balance. Going from such an intense opening act to a more slow-paced and dramatic story is a big downstep entertainment-wise. Even when the action returns, it's a totally different type of war action. Throughout the film, I felt like wanting a bit of "that" when there was too much of "this" and a bit of "this" when there was too much of "that."
Nevertheless, Overlord is one of my favorite movies of 2018, and it's going to make my life hard at the end of the year, organizing my Top10. It's a brilliantly structured story filled with remarkably well-developed characters and a phenomenal cast, led by Jovan Adepo. Julius Avery provides a captivating and intense rollercoaster of genres and tones, delivering a film with very different levels of entertainment due to the many styles present. His filmmaking craft is mind-blowing, and J.J. Abrams' production is visually stunning, at least. Watch it on IMAX so you can feel how powerful and intense the sound design is. You'll be captivated from the first to the last second. Enjoy it!