This one gets off to a promising start before descending into garish violence. Overlord was the codename given to the D-Day landing at Normandy in WWII. And that is the backdrop to Julius Avery’s movie, as we join a group of GIs on a mission to take out a Nazi communications tower before the invasion begins. The convincing opening scene has the boys being flown behind enemy lines while being shot at from below. We do the usual figuring of who will be killed, who will be the hero and who will be the joker etc, before they bail out of the bomber and parachute into enemy territory. The interesting part of the story comes when the doughty corporal (Wyatt Russell), the sensitive Afro-American who can speak French (Jovan Adepo), and the gum-chewing professional (John Magaro) discover that the quaint stone village to which they have been sent is also the location of a laboratory where a German physician is doing frightening experiments on the local population, in the manner of Josef Mengele. His aim is to make the invincible storm trooper – ‘if you want a thousand-year Reich, you need a thousand-year soldier’ – but it is still a work in progress and the results are variable and hideous. It’s a provocative idea, but Avery is only concerned with the ferocity that he is able to unleash. And to be fair to his crew in the makeup department, they are spectacularly successful in their monstrous creations – the Kraut officer with half his face blown away, along with a bald and snarling ‘Mr Hyde’ in a cell are a credit to their bloody imagination. Naturally, there is a beautiful girl (Mathilde Ollivier), who is both unattached and attracted to the nice black guy as well as being a dab hand with a flamethrower. Her kid brother thinks the Yanks are fab – now there’s a surprise. A visual reference to Abu Ghraib reminds us that the enemy doesn’t own cruelty and barbarity is the lasting impression.
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