James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.
James Cole Clay // Film Critic
The Bad Robot mystery box, when used with care, has been a genre device that has all but revolutionized studio storytelling. J.J. Abrams created a blindfolded movie-going experience with the ability to draw in some eyeballs (looking at you CLOVERFIELD), an experience that, for better or for worse, brings something newish to the table each time around. Bad Robot is essentially an Amblin for the modern age; it’s fun and audiences should celebrate the company. But with Abrams’ latest producing excursion, OVERLORD the shroud of mystery is completely thrown out with the bathwater. Penned by veteran screenwriter Billy Ray (THE HUNGER GAMES) and directed by Julius Avery (SON OF A GUN), OVERLORD slams all its cards on the table with its chest puffed out for a big-budget “B movie” that brings forth thunderous action and (tempered) homages to horror’s most celebrated films.
Opening with a wallop of a sequence on the eve of D-Day, OVERLORD introduces an American para-trooping company preparing to disable a French communications tower. Director Julius Avery pulls out all the stops when it comes to showing war violence, even when the visual violence becomes slightly repetitive. The plot is just a warm-up for the much-desired Nazi killing. We enter this zombiefied man-on-a-mission story through the eyes of Pvt. Boyce (Jovan Adepo) as he counts down the 90 minutes to his first jump. Boyce is part of a group including hard-nosed Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell), Tibbet (John Magaro, giving his best NEW-YAWWK accent), Chase, the photographer (Iain De Castecker) and Captain Eldson (the always welcome Bokeem Woodbine). This opener packs a massive punch that leaves you paralyzed in your seat.
It turns out the Nazis are conducting experiments in their labs to create a legion of super soldiers called the “1,000-Year Reich” in hopes of taking of the world. It’s gross, and there are super-human Nazi zombies.
OVERLORD doesn’t disappoint on its promise of being an implausible spectacle, but part of its faults is not going full out on its insanity. Maybe the studio is to blame for wanting to reign in its filmmakers quite a bit. However, there’s enough madness to keep any Nazi hater satiated.
Special Features: This lot of special features definitely up the letter grade from the theatrical release. It’s such a nice surprise to see a studio and filmmaker put time into documenting the behind the scenes footage in insightful and even entertaining ways. Sure, it takes the budget to do so, but with a near hour-long documentary, the OVERLORD home video release is definitely worthy of your shelf.
In addition, the sound and video transfer is magnificent. Blown up on the big screen, the film did have texture and depth, but the addition of 4K HDR highlights every gory detail, from the evil underground laboratories to the sound of bullets whizzing by your ear.
The documentary called THE HORRORS OF WAR is broken down into six parts, taking us on a journey through the making of the film. We cover the visual effects, the terror above, below and on the ground. The shoot wasn’t easy, but it was all done for the sake of storytelling.
Creation: Featuring interviews with producers J.J, Abrams and Lindsey Weber and director Julius Avery. They discuss how the film came to be.
Death Above: The opening scene to OVERLORD is incredible. It depicts a group of paratroopers jumping out of a plane with thunderous action. Just picture the opening to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but instead of a boat, it’s a plane and there is more vomit.
Death On the Ground: Following the production as we get a glimpse at the actors and the physical demands of the day-in-day-out of playing pretend for a living. It seems fun, but damn if this work doesn’t look exhausting.
Death Below: In what is my favorite sequence of the film (no spoilers), we get a look at the immense amount of detail that went into crafting the underground Nazi laboratories.
Death No More: Takes a look at the visual design of the effects. And J.J. Abrams goes into his love for John Carpenter’s THE THING.
Brothers in Arms: Sure, you can have all the blood and gore you want, but if you don’t care about the characters, this is just another forgotten horror film. This features highlights the magic of the casting process.
OVERLORD is now available on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.