‘Overlord’: Men on a Mission to Kill Nazis Receive a Gory Jolt

Posted November 8, 2018 3:32 p.m. EST

Director Julius Avery’s “Overlord” begins with a spectacular parachute drop amid a firestorm of vomiting soldiers, burning airplanes and flying body parts, and it ends with an equally spectacular (and occasionally cathartic) pandemonium of exploding Nazis, geysers of blood and assorted creative impalements. In between, however, it delivers a fairly predictable, though still quite violent, action-horror hybrid about a small group of American soldiers behind enemy lines.

The year is 1944, the Allies are about to land in Normandy, and our heroes must take out a critical Nazi radio-jamming tower. The tower has been built atop a church, which seems at first like a typically villainous attempt by the Germans to use a religious site as cover for a military outpost. But there may be more to it, as we soon discover.

Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) of the U.S. Army is the film’s nervous, newbie protagonist, always eager to do the right thing but derided by fellow soldiers for not being tough enough. Together with the battle-hardened Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) and the meager remnants of their unit, they sneak into the small French village where the tower is, and learn from a young woman (Mathilde Ollivier) that the occupying Germans regularly take unruly locals to the church for punishment.

What kind of punishment? That’s perhaps best kept secret for now — after all, the film was produced by J.J. Abrams, who likes to think of his stories as “mystery boxes” — but let’s just say that there are unidentifiable carcasses strewn in the forest, shadowy characters kept behind closed doors and a Nazi doctor who seems eager for freshly executed bodies.

The idea of merging a World War II adventure with supernatural elements is certainly nothing new; examples abound, from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” to “The Keep” to (sort of) the zombie thriller “Dead Snow.” At times “Overlord” recalls these movies, and it also seems to be aware that its ostensibly twisty premise is actually fairly predictable: The film doesn’t try to surprise us with narrative revelations so much as it tries to jolt us with gore.

That results in a curiously undernourished story that at times feels like it’s setting up mysteries and subplots that never quite go anywhere. Nevertheless, as seen in the film’s terrifying opening and its gruesome climax, Avery deftly orchestrates some grisly, intense set pieces. He delivers on the thrills, even if the story leaves something to be desired.

“Overlord” is rated R for copious swearing, bleeding and burning. And one very nasty head crush. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.