J.J. Abrams’ degenerate new war film combines horror with exploitation to deadening effect.



Running foul: Mathilde Ollivier


Just as the world celebrates the centenary of the Armistice of 1918, along comes a film to remind us of the horrors of war. Of course, ‘Overlord’ was the codename for the Battle of Normandy, so this aberration is set during the Second World War, specifically the day before D-Day. The film has barely started when we are treated to the sight of American soldiers being shredded by anti-aircraft fire, a number of American planes turned into fireballs and the near-drowning of one paratrooper. But that’s just for starters. Once behind enemy lines, the five survivors of the German guns – a largely unsavoury bunch of loud-mouthed Yanks – are subjected to a brutal miscellany of atrocities. Here, there be no good Germans, just strutting evil-doers who rape the local women and use children for target practice. But there are even worse revelations to come. The Germans have been conducting a series of scientific experiments on the French villagers and in the process have created something truly abominable…


It’s been a good year for horror films and then along comes this. Watching it just reinforces the intelligence of John Krasinski’s truly frightening A Quiet Place, which used the power of silence to excavate our worst fears. Here, Overlord charges in the opposite direction, employing noise to try and subjugate its audience. So every motion is underlined by an orchestral panic attack and every punch accentuated by a sonic boom. The effect quickly leads to tedium, while the pornographic violence is beyond the Pythonesque. Even for diehard fans of horror, the spectacle must seem ludicrous.


On top of all this, the film is populated by nincompoops. Our nominal hero, Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) hides in a darkened cellar behind the glare of his flashlight (which the Nazis pretend not to notice), while his colleagues constantly state the bleeding obvious. As the first flak attack rattles the paratroopers’ fuselage, one grunt comments, “we must be close.” And the Germans are no brighter. With their ammunition at a premium, they empty several rounds of their machine guns to fell a solitary American. What’s surprising about all this is that Overlord is produced by J.J. Abrams, the canny mastermind behind the reboots of Star Trek and Star Wars. If there’s one single redeeming feature of the film, it’s the performance of the Oxfordshire-born Adepo, who first made his mark in Denzel Washington’s Fences. He not only makes a convincing fist of an American soldier, but under impossible odds retains a semblance of human dignity. This is no mean feat, as his co-stars – notably Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt) and the Danish actor Pilou Asbæk – relentlessly devour the scenery.




Cast: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Pilou Asbæk, Mathilde Ollivier, John Magaro, Bokeem Woodbine, Iain De Caestecker, Dominic Applewhite, Gianny Taufer, Jacob Anderson, Erich Redman, Hayley Carmichael.


Dir Julius Avery, Pro J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber, Screenplay Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith, Ph Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner, Pro Des Jon Henson, Ed Matt Evans, Music Jed Kurzel, Costumes Anna B. Sheppard.


Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot Productions-Paramount Pictures.

109 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 7 November 2018. Cert. 18.