Film Review: ‘Overlord’

In case there are any young folks out there who aren’t convinced that the Nazis were bad — shockingly, there still seem to be stragglers — here stomps Julius Avery’s World War II thriller “Overlord,” a blast of righteous rage in which a group of good American boys avenge themselves against an SS goon squad made of child torturers, corpse defilers, icon-burners, murderers, and rapists. These Germans even spit on baseballs.

“Overlord” is a jingoistic throwback to a time of moral clarity when there weren’t very fine people on both sides, adapted for an audience that likes its action movies to be structured like video games, with Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo) creeping down brick hallways like he’s in a first-person shooter, pausing to pick up clues. Novel? Not especially. “Overlord” works best as a patriotism booster shot — it’s “Inglourious Basterds” without a swizzle of irony. But at its Fantastic Fest premiere, the audience applauded for the goriest Nazi deaths with sincere glee, content to duck out from the news cycle to spend two hours in a world of clear heroes and villains.

Overlord’s opening sequence is fantastic. It’s the night before D-Day, and the sky and seas are cluttered with soldiers steeling themselves for the morning’s big fight. Avery opens in the air with a plane of paratroopers preparing to take out a Nazi radio tower mounted like a wicked steeple atop an occupied village church. The camera focuses on the young Americans’ nerves, the bouncing knees, clenched fingers, and empty boasting, as though loudmouth Tibbet (John Magaro), the one with the obligatory Bronx accent, plans to personally assassinate Hitler. When they reach the French coast, they’re suddenly surrounded by stark chaos, planes plummeting through the air, bullets ripping through their fuselage, a color palette by cinematographers Laurie Rose and Fabian Wagner made only of smoke gray and fireball red.

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