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Overlord - Sky Cinema Premiere

Holding a gun, Jovan Adepo helps injured Dominic Applewhite
(Image credit: Peter Mountain)

A gloriously gory mash-up of war adventure and horror thriller. 3/5 stars

On the eve of D-Day, a band of US paratroopers undertakes a do-or-die raid on which the success of the Allied landings depends - but deadly anti-aircraft fire, lethal landmines and crack German soldiers are far from the only terrors they face behind enemy lines. And it isn't only the GIs who should stiffen their sinews.

What producer JJ Abrams, director Julius Avery and screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L Smith have in store for the viewer is a brazen mash-up of guys-on-a-mission adventure and outlandish horror fantasy. The film's plucky band of brothers is the war movie genre's typically mixed bunch - with an extra, ahistorical dash of diversity for good measure.

There's the nervous but noble new recruit, African-American Boyce (Jovan Adepo, Denzel Washington's son in Fences); the hard-bitten explosives expert, Ford (Wyatt Russell, son of Kurt and Goldie Hawn); the cynical, gum-chewing loudmouth, Tibbet (John Magaro); and the genial southerner, Dawson (Jacob Anderson); plus photographer-soldier Chase (Iain De Caestecker) and the spunky French civilian they encounter early on, Mathilde Ollivier's Chloe. This Dirty Half-Dozen's mission is to destroy a German radio tower atop an old church in a small Normandy town, thereby allowing air cover for the imminent beach landings. Beneath the church, however, is a secret laboratory where an evil Nazi scientist is hard at work at grisly experiments to create an army of un-killable zombie soldiers. 'A thousand-year Reich needs thousand-year soldiers,' explains the story's chief villain, Pilou Asbæk's revoltingly vile SS captain Wafner.

Brace yourself, then, for an onslaught of gory action and disgustingly icky horror. Overlord certainly isn't for the squeamish, or for anyone who objects to the bad taste of using the real horrors of World War Two as a backdrop for splatter thrills (don't even bother pointing out that the US army didn't become racially integrated until 1948). If, though, you are in the mood for some down-and-dirty exploitation movie fun, Overlord is a literal blast.

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.