Action / Drama / History / War

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 92%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 75%
IMDb Rating 7.1 10 2047


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May 04, 2014 at 03:30 AM



Nicholas Ball as Arthur
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Edgar Soberon Torchia 10 / 10


Second World War (1939-1945) has been the subject of many films that recount the beginning, the offensives, the European movements of resistance, their survival; stories of troops, battles and personalities; the prisons, intimate dramas the madness, the Jewish experience, the memories and the perceptions of the conflagration and the post-war years. England was one of the most devastated nations and the conflict generated a varied production, from the State financed propaganda to classics as "In Which We Serve" and "49th Parallel". But the farthest the products were from the real events, the more false they got, the more they have been loaded with special effects, without a real feeling of what happened between 1939 and 1945. "Overlord" (codename for the 1944 disembarkation of troops in Normandy) supplies that time distance from the real events with a brilliantly executed idea. The film depicts the training of a young British recruit who will die even before the landing starts: his premonition is exposed from the first minutes. We know that he is going to die in the end, so his preparation, reflections, relationship with other recruits, fleeting romance and movements with the troops, are loaded with melancholy and naivety, to which Brian Stirner's face immensely helps, as he portrays the central role Tom Beddows. Tom is not afraid at all. He is just there because he was recruited, he is going to fight because "he has to" or perhaps he senses that his destiny is in the hands of powerful men who stage wars when numbers do not add up. Therefore, the screenplay by Christopher Hudson and Stuart Cooper (also director, an American filmmaker) contrasts Tom's moments of apparent calm, with footage from the war itself. I confess that I have rarely seen documentary material from different sources so admirably edited into a drama as in "Overlord", and I think the key was the selection of images. Taken from the British Imperial War Museum and a film archive in Germany, the authentic footage of Second World War is impressive. Only once we see human remains, because they prioritized the images of aerial attacks, train and cities under fire, building in flames with firemen all around, advancing troops, cannons, machine guns, ambulances, ships that are sunk (in a moment, Adolf Hitler impassively contemplates the panorama, from a wide airplane window...), all aptly overdubbed. No contemporary visual effects can compare to these sounds and images shot at the time they were happening. And the most remarkable job done is the integration of these shots with the scenes of Tom's recruitment, sometimes calm, other hectic. It is the contrast and the context, what Tom is ultimately going to face. "Overlord" won the Special Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, but not even the UK recognized its value when it came to handing out its Bafta awards. Hollywood, for its part, had had too good a production in 1975 to award an Oscar to a British film. However, time is the best judge and in 2007 and 2014, digital editions were issued.

Reviewed by tomgillespie2002 9 / 10

One of the most innovative and devastating war pictures ever made

Stuart Cooper's Overlord is a meditation on the mechanics of war and the young souls swept into it. After winning the Silver Bear at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival, the film became incredibly obscure until recently, when it was given the restoration it deserved by the lovely folks at Criterion. Beginning in a quaint English home and ending on the beaches of Normandy for 'Operation Overlord' during World War II, it's a simple yet hypnotic story of a young private named Tom (Brian Stirner) and his slow journey to a death he feels is inevitable. The very first scene shows an out-of- focus soldier running from or towards an unknown threat before being shot down, only to be revealed as a dream sequence. This vision plagues Tom's thoughts, but he nevertheless remains somewhat chipper about it.

What makes this very personal journey so incredibly powerful is the sense of impending doom. Tom always seems to be on the move, be it on a train or an army jeep, as if he is making a slow trek towards his fate, and he chooses this time to daydream. Despite not knowing where the war is heading or if he'll even see combat, he somehow knows he is going to die but remains nonchalant about it. A nice boy, well spoken and slight, Tom is not built for the army, but he does what he is told and makes friends. The only time we really see his personality come to the fore is when he meets a pretty young lady (Julie Neesam) and the pair enjoy what little time they have together. He tells her they'll meet again, but we know they won't. In making Tom such an everyman, Overlord studies the anonymity of battle, and celebrates the millions of unknown soldiers who have charged into certain death without really understanding why.

Starting out life as a documentary, Cooper later made the bold decision to use the startling archive footage provided by the Imperial War Museum and weave a narrative through it. Cinematographer John Alcott (who collaborated with Stanley Kubrick on the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Barry Lyndon) employs grainy black-and-white photography for the central story so it is interchangeable with the stock footage. The result is staggering. By adding sound, scenes of devastating city bombings become hellish nightmares, and a beach landing turns into something out of science- fiction. In a bizarre scene, a water wheel device powered by mini rockets rolls across the water and onto land, hoping to detonate any landmines or unexploded bombs before mightily toppling over. It's World War II like you've never seen it before, and it's real. It's a winning combination of observational and personal, making Overlord one of the most innovative and devastating humanist war films ever made.

Reviewed by ejamessnyder 8 / 10

Hauntingly beautiful

Overlord is about a young British soldier and his experiences as he trains and prepares for battle. As the day of the invasion draws nearer, he becomes increasingly convinced that he will be killed. He accepts his fate and he has dreams and visions the approaching battle as well as of the woman he met shortly before shipping out, to whom he never had the chance to say goodbye.

The film is very well done and does a brilliant job or seamlessly cutting between the original movie footage and stock footage shot during the Second World War. The footage that was shot for the film itself was done so on the same old style of film used during the war for the sake of consistency. Much of the time I couldn't even tell which shots were real and which were staged.

But the best part of the film is the narrative. It is told in an unusual, heavily introspective style that focuses on feeling more than story. Nothing is overly explained the way it is in so many other films to drive home a message or a plot point. Some things appear to be left deliberately vague, unexplained, or ambiguous.

But a funny thing happened when watching this film: I realized that, because the story focused on the soldier's feelings instead of specific events and explanations, the whole story made even more sense than it ever could have otherwise. This was the first time I experienced such a revelation when watching a movie and it was something I had never even considered, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense. I don't know if that was what the filmmakers were going for exactly, but it really works on that level!

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