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Movie Review

Nazis are just the worst.

No revelation there, of course. Not in June of 1944, either, what with some 73,000 Americans on their way to France for D-Day. Nazi Germany had been waging war on much of the world for years at that point (with a little help from its Axis friends). But now the tide seemed to be turning. The Americans and their allies were about to push the fight into Nazi-held France—beginning the long, costly trek to Berlin.

Private Boyce is proud to do his part. Sure he's scared: Sitting in the back of that plane, parachute strapped on and orange-red flowers of fire blooming all around him, who wouldn't be?

And if we're being honest, he's not even much of a soldier. When his commanding officer, Sgt. Rensin, told him to kill a mouse that was leaving little, um, gifts in the barracks, he couldn't even do that—much less pull the trigger on a human being. But Boyce understands what the war's about. He understands what's at stake. And if he can help the Allies finish things off that much quicker, and get everyone home alive that much sooner, he'll do whatever is asked of him.

In fact, the plane's full of soldiers like Boyce—American boys and men proud and scared, wanting to stay alive but willing to do their duty. And they've got an important duty to do: to take down a radio tower the Nazis have installed on a church down below. (Why a church? Because Nazis are terrible, Rensin says in so many words.) They'll be working with munitions expert Cpl. Ford, and Rensin tells his men to follow Ford's orders like they would Rensin's own. It's an important mission—not easy, but doable, with plenty of men on hand to help.

Alas, war is notoriously hard on both men and missions. Their plane gets hit, and some soldiers are sucked into a fiery maw that was once its tail. Others die before their feet ever touch terra firma, dangling from trees like ghastly ornaments. Only five arrive at the rendezvous point, and just four make it to the French town near the church: A tiny squad to be sure, but enough, maybe, to do their mission.

But while Ford and his skeleton crew have their eyes fixed on the tower, the Nazis are focused on what's in the church basement: The makeshift operating tables, the syringes filled with strange orange serum. And the … things, locked up and monitored, the walking horrors unspeakable.

Yup, Nazis. They're the worst.

Especially if they're Nazi zombies.

Positive Elements

They don't call the folks who fought in World War II the Greatest Generation for nothing. The soldiers and sailors who participated in that war—including some of those we see in Overlord—display(ed) courage under extraordinarily trying circumstances. Throw some nasty undead creatures into the mix, and we're got award-worthy derring-do here.

And let's give a special shout-out to Chloe, a French villager who also heads down to the church basement for the very best of reasons with nary a look back. It's not like she's been trained to fight Nazis—much less zombies. But she's willing to do so to save someone else.

But Overlord doesn't stop with its illustration of admirable (if at times stupid) courage. It suggests that sometimes soldiers feel a tension between their everyday sense of morality and their duty to follow the orders of a commanding officer. Sometimes, it seems, a soldier's duty holds the ethical trump card, while at other times the commander is clearly in the wrong. But the ethical tension between those competing moral impulses offers an unexpected layer of philosophical subtlety in a movie that otherwise isn't particularly philosophical or subtle.

Spiritual Content

As mentioned, the Nazis placed their critical radio tower atop a church, where they're also conducting their truly unholy experiments. We see the church's crypts (some of which contain religious symbols) and iron gates (that can bear crosses). When Boyce and his fellow soldiers first enter town, the camera spies a pile of the church's religious iconography discarded by the Nazis, including at least two crucifixes depicting a suffering Christ—symbols they considered burn-worthy trash, it would seem. Some characters also wear crosses around their necks.

The Nazis apparently chose the church in part because of its proximity to water with special properties. (Seems perhaps the church is a bit like France's famous Lourdes Shrine, the waters of which are said to have healing properties.) But the Nazis are hardly penitent pilgrims: They use these waters for their own nefarious experiments, and often those experiments are couched in spiritual-sounding language. One calls the Nazi serum an aspect of "eternity," and suggests that the powers the serum grants can turn someone into a "god."

Rosenfeld, a fellow soldier and friend of Boyce, frets about what the Nazis would do to him if he falls into their hands, given his Jewish last name and all. Boyce wears what's described as a "lucky charm" around his neck.

Sexual Content

A Nazi commander named Wafner visits Chloe, the French villager. We soon come to understand that he's regularly blackmailing Chloe for sex: If she lets him stay the night with her, he'll not take Chloe's little brother to the church to be experimented upon (as he did with her mother, father and aunt). He takes off part of his uniform, begins to peel away parts of her outfit and lifts up her skirt for an apparent sexual encounter when they're interrupted.

Another soldier grabs Chloe and seems ready to rape her before he, too, is stopped.

Violent Content

So, those experiments down in the church? Yeah, pretty terrible. Be warned.

Boyce stumbles into the church's main laboratory and sees a variety of abominations. One victim is merely a head and exposed spine—the disembodied remains of a still-conscious woman begging for help. Others are zipped into blood-and-serum-filled bags. When Boyce partially unzips one, gore pours out and a head slips through, too, covered in a gas mask (apparently so it can breathe in the unholy marinade). Dead people are brought back to "life", if you can call it that, still bearing some really ghastly injuries. Boyce finds a fellow soldier lying on a table—injured, but still very much himself. A hose, though, is embedded in the man's torso, and when Boyce removes it, he sees that the tube also contained a huge, cruel-looking needle.

'Course, most of these Nazi "experiments" aren't just content to lie about in bags of bloody goo. The serum, when injected into dead people, yields truly horrifying results.

Boyce witness one such transmogrification take place in one of his own mates: The soldier throws his head back grotesquely, snapping his spine and allowing the head to loll around for a while until he's able to mount it back on his shoulders. Pieces of bone still jut out of his skin, and the monster continues to live despite repeated gunshots. Only multiple bullets to the face put him down—after which a soldier takes his rifle butt and slams it into the head repeatedly, to gory effect.

Other zombies run around, horribly disfigured, with bits of bones poking from portions of arms (where hands and wrists once were) or necks or backs or shoulders. We see others shot several times at close range. The only surefire way to kill these creatures is with fire, and we see them dispatched in that way, too. One man, who injects himself with the serum while still living, survives a direct gunshot to the face but looks really, really terrible afterward.

Dozens of people are shot and killed. Some are shot and live, even when they've suffered several wounds. Someone under the influence of the serum plays with his own mortal wounds, smearing the blood across his chest. A man gets beaten and stabbed several times in the hope that he'll give up information. Another man is hung on a massive hook and also punched and stabbed a couple of times. A soldier has a grenade taped inside his mouth: When an unknowing fellow soldier pulls the tape away, the tape pulls out the pin, too—blowing him and others to smithereens.

And on and on it goes: Soldiers get sucked out of a flaming wound in a plane. We see others suspended from trees by their parachutes, also dead. Someone steps on a landmine. A villager is executed by a Nazi, and her husband is whisked away to the horrors at the church. Someone hides in a pile of dead bodies. A Nazi is pulled into a cell by an unknown entity and is (we'd assume) killed, perhaps eaten. Planes explode and crash. Buildings are rocked by explosions, too. Syringes are stabbed into chests and legs.

Crude or Profane Language

About 30 f-words and just under 25 s-words. We also hear "a--," "b--ch," "b--tard," "d--k," "d--n," "h---" and "crap." God's name is misused a dozen times, 10 of those with "d--n." Jesus' name is also abused about 10 times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A German commander smokes.

Other Negative Elements

A soldier vomits. Another tortures a Nazi, explaining that to beat them, soldiers have to become just as bad. We hear about a mouse's defecation habits.

Conclusion

Overlord feels like it pulled its premise right from a particularly geeked-out corner of the Internet. You know what's worse than Nazis and zombies? Zombie Nazis!

Not that it's the first time that Internet corner's been exploited: Indeed, there's a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to "Nazi zombie films." But Overlord might be the first such movie to land in nearly 3,000 theaters, with a budget in excess of $35 million and no immediate Rifftrax lock-in.

Critics have been pretty kind to this action/war/horror flick powered by adrenaline and gristle. But neither its cost nor its (arguable) aesthetic quality mitigates this simple, salient fact: In its graphic depictions of its Nazi horrors (and horrific Nazis), Overlord goes overboard. Like, shooting off the Titanic with a James Bond jetpack overboard.

To say this film is gratuitously violent seems rather pointless, given that its gratuitous violence seems at least partly the point. This is splatter cinema with a conscience, brutal gore with a better core. The violence here is so over the top that it can feel, at times, almost laughable—and perhaps intentionally so. But discerning moviegoers might not find this flick very funny at all.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Jovan Adepo as Boyce; Wyatt Russell as Ford; Mathilde Ollivier as Chloel Pilou Asbæk as Wafner; John Magaro as Tibbet; Iain De Caestecker as Chase; Jacob Anderson as Dawson; Dominic Applewhite as Rosenfeld; Gianny Taufer as Paul

Director

Julius Avery ( )

Distributor

Paramount Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

November 9, 2018

On Video

February 19, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults
We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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