Overlord Review: Lord, Please Skip Over the First Ten Minutes

Overlord is a 2018 November film that you probably missed and it would be reasonable if you did. It only grossed $41 million on a budget of $38 million despite being produced by JJ Abrams and being a war movie with “zombies”. Honestly, with just that small amount of information, I’m really surprised it didn’t do better.

But having watched it, I can see why it wasn’t exactly a box office success, despite mostly positive reviews from others. And for me, that lack of success can be directly attributed to the terrible, downright awful first ten or so minutes (as the blog title suggests, obviously). The opening scene is a mess, introducing us to a gaggle of GI airmen. It’s unclear, at least for a while, who the lead will be. The scene is loud, confusing, and it looks like it was made in the 90s.

Eventually, the airmen jump from the plane and we realize the lead is Boyce, played with wide-eyed fear and not much else by Jovan Adepo. He eventually meets up with a few more of the airmen from the plane including gruff Corporal Ford played by Wyatt Russell who watches along as the Sergeant from the plane is gunned down by German soldiers. Then another one of these men from the plane is blown up by a land mine almost as soon as we meet him.

These first few scenes are frustratingly loud and distracting. Why introduce so many characters in the first scene only to immediately kill two of them and have another noticeably missing for most of the movie? They attempt to build some emotional weight with these deaths and the disappearance but it falls so flat. I really wanted to turn the film off at this point but we were invested.

Eventually the men make it to the small French town with the radio tower they are supposed to blow up with the help of a beautiful French villager Chloe played by Mathilde Ollivier. This mission Ford is adamantly dedicated to. They quickly realize things are not as they seem when Boyce stumbles upon Chloe’s sick aunt. She is basically a human shaped boil, apparently the effects of being taken to the church by the Nazi soldiers as punishment for something. It is at this point at the film becomes watchable and even maybe more than enjoyable, despite the messiness of the ensuing plot.

Basically, the tar pits under the town are being used to create a serum to create “thousand year soldiers for a thousand year Reich” but it hasn’t been perfect yet and results in people like the aunt, almost “zombies”. The remaining soldiers eventually infiltrate this base, with a few sidesteps by Boyce along the way (much to the chagrin of Ford). It is in this part of the plot that the movie redeems itself.

The characters become generally likeable, especially a fun performance from Joh n Magaro as Tibbet and the connection he makes with Chloe’s kid brother. The action is still loud but more focused and there’s lots of fire and explosions. The showdown between Corporal Ford and Wafner, the big bad, is appropriately intense as well.

In some sense, I wish more people had seen this film. It ends up being a fun ride and has left a generally pleasant memory in my mind. But I understand that if people left the theater in the first few minutes, they would have no idea what they are missing. A stronger performance from Adepo would also have bolstered this movie in my opinion. He’s fine here but not terribly compelling. I don’t think I really cared that much whether or not he survived and even at times thought the film would have been better without him, left focusing on Tibbet, Ford and others. All in all, if you have Amazon Prime and 2 hours and like this type of movie, it might be worth it. But if even one of these conditions isn’t met, I wouldn’t really do much to seek out this film.