The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - OVERLORD | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - OVERLORD

overlord review
A group of American soldiers uncover Nazi experiments in a French village.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Julius Avery

Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier, Pilou Asbæk 

overlord poster

If there's one strand of exploitation cinema I didn't foresee making a comeback in these sensitive times, it's Nazisploitation. The heyday of the salacious sub-genre was the 1970s, with movies like Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, Gestapo's Last Orgy and SS Experiment Camp packing out grindhouses while arthouse patrons indulged in more composed but no less exploitative fare like The Night Porter, Salon Kitty and Salò. Most of these films followed the same general premise - the Nazis are conducting human experiments in some sort of camp (usually a women's prison), with their subjects eventually rising up and turning the tables on Gerry in gruesome fashion. Even back then such films were considered offensive, but it's worth bearing in mind that most of them were made by exiled Jews and Italian communists, for whom they may well have proved cathartic.

Now the Nazis are back, hosting their own hit YouTube shows and being invited on breakfast TV to spout bigoted tripe as you choke on your cornflakes in disbelief. Even movies set during WWII now tend to focus on 'Good Nazis' - Suite Francaise, Land of MineWhere Hands Touch - asking us to spare some sympathy for those Germans who were "just following orders."

overlord review

In the current climate, where we can't even offend Nazis any more, Overlord is a breath of fresh air. There are no 'Good German' figures here, just proper, old school arsehole Nazis, and it's an undeniable pleasure watching them get their comeuppance in a variety of gory and innovative ways.

Like their compatriots in the '70s grindhouse movies mentioned above, the Nazis here are up to no good with their fiendish experiments. Like all movie mad scientists, they've put together a serum that they hope to use to create a race of invincible super-Nazis with the strength and temperament of a thousand she-bears protecting their cubs from campers.

overlord review

The night before the D-Day landings, a squad of American grunts are parachuted behind enemy lines to take out a tower in a French village. They're made up of the classic archetypes of a good old fashioned WWII guys on a mission movie - the fresh-faced draftee, Boyce (Jovan Adepo); the tough, seen it all corporal, Ford (Wyatt Russell); the cynical Brooklynite, Tibbet (John Magaro); the educated one, Chase (Iain De Caestecker); and the Jewish one, Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite) - and the film has a lot of fun playing on our familiarity with the roles they occupy. Russell is channelling his old man Kurt like never before, and I found myself wondering how he might look with an eye-patch.

With the aid of a local girl, Chloe (Lea Seydoux lookalike Mathilde Ollivier), the squaddies stumble across the Nazis' laboratory, and when their Nazi prisoner Wafner (Pilou Asbæk, delivering the best cartoon Nazi performance since Raiders of the Lost Ark) escapes, taking Chloe's kid brother hostage, they decide to take a detour and destroy the lab.

overlord review

is directed by an Australian, Julius Avery (Son of a Gun), and it has that Ozploitation spirit of not giving a XXXX about whom it might offend. Having an African-American protagonist may let the real life racism of the American military of the era off the hook, but it certainly adds an extra edge to the film when Boyce starts offing Nazis. American cinema is generally very careful not to portray a black man killing a white man in a positive light, so it's refreshing to be able to root for a black hero as he shoots and stabs his way through Nazis.

Avery's direction is muscular and keeps things moving at a rapid pace, though he never again replicates the thrills of the opening sequence, which captures the chaos of parachuting through a barrage of ground to air fire in intense fashion. The opening act actually lays the ground for an impressive war movie, and I think I may have personally preferred it to stay in that grounded territory rather than taking the sci-fi/horror turn it ultimately does. As figurative monsters, its Nazis are far scarier antagonists than the literal monsters our heroes end up battling.

Overlord is on Netflix UK now.