Sitges Review: Julius Avery's WWII Movie 'Overlord' is Loud & Intense
by Alex Billington
October 18, 2018
Play this movie as loud as you can. Turn the volume all the way up, strap in, and prepare for an extremely intense cinematic experience. I am a sucker for World War II movies, pretty much any/all of them, so I will happily admit I probably enjoyed this a bit more than most will, unless you're also a fan of WWII movies. With that said, it's an awesome movie anyway. Overlord is a WWII horror movie from Australian director Julius Avery, making his first big studio movie after Son of a Gun in 2014. This time he collaborated with Bad Robot and producer J.J. Abrams to deliver an intense, extra loud, uber violent, enrapturing WWII action movie spiced up with some gnarly horror. It hits real hard, right from the start, but never drags. You have to go see this movie in theaters - the big screen, big sound experience really, really makes a difference.
Avery's Overlord opens with a jaw-dropping action sequence that begins inside of plane taking a batch of paratroopers into France on the eve of D-Day. These troops have been given the task of landing in enemy territory just before the boats arrive in the morning, where they must take out a radio tower so the Allied invasion can proceed. Once they're on the ground, the remaining soldiers who do survive discover a secret laboratory underneath the radio tower. And they discover the Nazis are experimenting on humans, trying to come up with a super soldier. The results of the experiments are not great so far, with grotesque creations and disgusting remnants being all they've been able to produce. This small group of shell-shocked Allied soldiers do their best to fight back and complete the mission, even when the dead start coming back to life.
Avery is certainly a competent director, and proves this in the way he handles the ensemble cast and all of their characters. Right off the bat, he quickly and confidently establishes the quirks & unique traits of each one we're following, then makes sure they stay true to these traits as the story continues. This is important because there's so much action in this movie, from scene to scene, that the characters need to be as defined and well-rounded as all the technical aspects. It's also easy to sense J.J. Abrams' involvement, as the action scenes are masterfully crafted and intense, reminding of the train crash from Super 8. The opening scene is astonishing, one of the most intense opening action scenes in anything this entire year. When they hit the flak, it gets jaw-dropping amazing. The audience in Sitges erupted into rapturous applause when it was over.
I could go on and on about that opening scene, but it's just one of the many exhilarating action scenes in this movie. And I'm glad Abrams had a hand in crafting this movie, because that connection seems to have been the extra touch needed to really push this over the line from a low budget adventure to a seriously thrilling, eye-opening cinematic experience. Abrams knows how important that immersive experience is, and made sure this movie lived up to his standards. And when I love a movie as much as this one, I can't help but just go on and on about how great it is. The score by Jed Kurzel also stands out. Even the horror side of it is handled carefully, never drifting too far into the supernatural just because, or pivoting into a zombie movie, it sticks with the grounded WWII story yet gives us grounded WWII undead horror. So turn that volume up.
Alex's Sitges 2018 Rating: 9 out of 10
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