Revisionist history can be fun, particularly when it involves killing Nazis ala Inglourious Basterds. The latest actioner blending history with fiction is Overlord, from director Julius Avery and Producer J. J. Abrams. In this alternate World War II reality, American paratroopers parachute into occupied France to take down a German communications tower and discover the Nazis are conducting horrible experiments on the local citizens. Using an ancient tar found under a church, the Germans create a super-soldier serum that has horrifying side effects. The survivors look to complete the mission and save the world from Nazi zombies.
At the end of the day, Overlord is less fun than it sounds, though it's still an entertaining B-movie. The film opens on the eve of D-Day aboard an American airplane, filled with paratroopers, that soon begins taking enemy fire. Five men survive the initial attack, including Corp. Ford (Wyatt Russell) and soldiers Chase (Iain De Caestecker), Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Tibbet (John Magaro) and Dawson (Jacob Anderson). The ground proves just as hostile, and the troop looks to avoid roaming German soldiers and landmines. They encounter French civilian Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), who lives with eight-year-old brother Paul (Gianny Taufer) and an aunt who is the victim of Nazi experiments. Chloe offers to help the Americans reach the radio tower, but is interrupted by vicious SS Hauptsturmführer Wafner (Pilou Asbæk), who serves as the film's antagonist.
There is nothing particularly original about Overlord, and the film's advertising overplays some of the more fantastical elements. The movie is largely an intimate war story with fungible, thinly developed (if likeable) characters. Wafner is the unflinching super Nazi of movie lore, and, as expected, comes in contact with the aforementioned serum and becomes even more of an asshole. One issue with the advertising versus the way the movie unspools is that Overlord plays its serum secrets like a slow-burn thriller, but the audience already knows where this is going, which undercuts the suspense. Even so, there are some horrific Nazi-lab reveals and cat-and-mouse chase scenes early on that fully involve the viewer.
The film's final act and climax are frenetic, and open the stakes to the world stage. The action scenes are entertaining and bloody, and Overlord does not outstay its welcome despite a nearly two-hour running time. In a perfect world, Overlord's war drama would be better developed and the zombie elements would be more prominent. But, for a sub $40-million production, the film does a decent job blending genres and maximizing the effects and action. I am OK with B-movies getting theatrical releases. Overlord is not especially unique or memorable, but it is entertaining. And that's more than I can say for a lot of movies these days.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is mostly impressive, with strong-fine object detail and texture. There are plenty of digital effects to blend into the live action, which the transfer handles appropriately. Colors are lush and nicely saturated, particularly the oranges and reds of the early artillery, the blood-red Nazi labs, and the lush-green outdoor scenery. Blacks are inky, but shadow detail gets a bit murky in spots. I noticed minor aliasing but little else negative to note.
The Dolby Atmos mix, which I sampled as a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack, is absolutely raucous and totally immersive. Dialogue, score and effects are blended seamlessly, and directional effects and effects panning are prevalent throughout the feature. The score is weighty and appropriately balanced, and quieter scenes are as perfectly audible as louder action sequences. A host of dubs and subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD and a digital copy, and comes in an eco-case that is wrapped in a slipcover that duplicates the key artwork. The 4K set, which DVD Talk was not sent to review, offers superior artwork. Extras include The Horrors of War (51:28/HD), a six-part making-of piece that offers interviews and on-set footage.
This revisionist-history action film infuses science fiction elements and remains entertaining despite overselling its Nazi-zombie premise. This is a solid B-movie, and, if you're a fan of such things, this disc is Recommended.