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GIs vs. Nazi zombies? “Overlord” is loaded with po’ but misses the target


Private Boyce lends Rosenfield (Dominic Applewhite) a shoulder after freeing him from the Nazis’ clutches. (4K frame shots courtesy of Paramount Home Media Distribution)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital copy; 2018, R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language and brief sexual content; Streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FrandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube

Best extra: There’s only one, an uninspired six-pack of short features covering different aspects of the production.

SOMETIMES, the parts don’t add up.

You’ve got J.J. Abrams (“Lost,” the “Star Trek” reboot) in the producer’s chair, a script by Billy Ray (“Captain Phillips”) and Mark L. Smith (“The Revenant”), promising young director Julius Avery (“Son of a Gun”) and a crack FX crew.

Why, then, is “Overlord” so routine?  

On the eve of D-Day, a squad of paratroopers is dropped behind enemy lines to take out a Nazi communications operation in a French church. Anti-aircraft and ground fire cut their numbers to a handful of “types,” but no matter, they’ve got a job to do. They get more than they bargained for, though, when they arrive in the village and hear rumors about nefarious “experiments” being conducted in the church cellar.

As the good guys head for France, a squad of paratroopers is into a mission to take out a Nazi communication operation.

Jovan Adepo, center, is Boyce, the wide-eyed novice who rises to the occasion when he and his squad mates are confronted with impossible odds.

Bokeem Woodbine plays the gung-ho Sgt. Rensin. He survives the jump, but isn’t around for long.

Thanks to the skilled FX and sound crews, the spectacular opening sequence throws viewers right into the action.

Experiments, indeed. The good guys come across a full-blown secret lab where a mysterious serum in pipe–size syringes is turning villagers and soldiers into … wait for it … zombies!

How could it miss, right? Except it does.

“Overlord” is bookended by top-notch action sequences, especially the tense, claustrophobic run into France, and throws in some choice red herrings, but too often just plods along to its been-there finale. The cast is no help, either: The gung-ho sergeant (Bokeem Woodbine), tough-as-nails corporal (Wyatt Russell), wide-eyed novice (Jovan Adepo), streetwise sharpshooter (John Magaro), Nazi goon (Pilou Asbaek) and French fighter (Mathilde Ollivier) are cutouts, not flesh-and-blood characters. 

On the flip side, the terrific opening sequence, courtesy of Industrial Light & Magic, gets a big boost from a room-shaking smorgasbord of mayhem that puts you in the middle of the action. And the attention to detail is a treat. No surprise there--costume designer Anna B. Sheppard’s credits include “Band of Brothers,” “Schindler’s List,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “Fury.”

The humdrum extras—six short features about the production—are hardly worth the bother. Instead of serving up anything substantial, they devote too much time to back-slapping and exaggeration. The exception is Abrams’ assertion that “Overlord” is the kind of story that would appeal to the late Rod Serling.

Uh, no. “The Twilight Zone” was, and still is, an original. 

At another point, he acknowledges that “Overlord” may not be historically accurate—the troops weren’t integrated—but given the movie’s premise, why not go ahead and break the rules?

If only he had followed through.

Boyce tries to get his bearings before pulling the cord on his parachute.

The bodies of paratroopers portend what lies ahead.

Mathilde Ollivier is Chloe, a French villager with an ax to grind. Her parents were unwilling participants in the Nazi’s experiments.

Wyatt Russell, left, plays Ford, the tough-as-nails corporal who takes command of the mission. The son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, acting’s in his blood.

Pilou Asbaek, as the head Nazi goon Wafner, tries to take advantage of Chloe.

VIDEO Cinematographers Laurie Rose (“Stan & Ollie”) and Fabian Wagner (“Justice League”) captured the action with 2.8K and 3.4K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio); the 2K master was then given a nice washing of old-school film grain in post-production. With most of the action taking place under the cover of darkness or underground in the secret Nazi lab, the HDR10 and Dolby Vision deliver a much darker tone without losing detail in the shadows. Earth tones dominate the color palette. The expanded highlights are controlled with a number of flamethrower moments.


The eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack included on the 4K and Blu-ray gives the action sequences a real bump,  enveloping the room from the height and rear speakers with explosions, gunfire and roaring fires, while the sound effects give the subwoofer a good workout. The score by Australian composer Jed Kurzel (“Alien: Covenant”) strikes a nice balance between electronics and heavy orchestral string textures. 

Craig Shapiro and High-Def Watch producer Bill Kelley III

The mad Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman) prepares to inject a soldier with the zombie serum.

The bad guys turn their flamethrowers on some of the failed experiments.

Ford tries to take out a zombie, a former U.S. paratrooper.

After injecting himself with a couple doses of serum, Wafner sizes up the competition.

Chloe uses a flamethrower to give the Nazis a taste of their own medicine.

Boyce is stopped in his tracks by Dr. Schmidt.





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