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Overlord


Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell star in a scene from the movie "Overlord." The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/Paramount)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- When it comes to disturbing sights, "Overlord" (Paramount), let it be said from the start, sometimes goes overboard. This weird, wild but surprisingly effective blend of war story and chiller from director Julius Avery is thus far too gory and gruesome for most moviegoers.

Those with a taste for the macabre and a strong stomach, however, will note that there is genuine artistic intent behind the picture -- which showcases both appealing characters and an intriguing exploration of morality. Even so, many may question whether these positive elements really compensate for the lengths Avery and screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith go to jolt their audience.

It's not just the occult ingredients in the film's unusual recipe, moreover, that prove unsettling. From the outset, the military exploits of humane World War II Pvt. Boyce (Jovan Adepo) and his more ruthless commander, Capt. Ford (Wyatt Russell), on whom the action centers, are depicted with a harshness that recalls Steven Spielberg's 1998 drama "Saving Private Ryan."

Boyce and Ford are among the few survivors of a team of paratroopers dropped over France on the eve of D-Day (from whose codename the movie takes its title). Their mission is to take out a radio transmitter the Germans have placed on the steeple of a church. Failure would endanger air cover for the entire invasion.

Between the midair destruction of the plane from which they jumped and the hazards of landing in the wrong place, however, their original complement has been reduced to a handful, including hard-bitten, cynical city boy Tibbet (John Magaro) and a naive photojournalist called Chase (Iain de Caestecker).

Though they're now vastly outnumbered by the occupiers, led by an officer named Wafner (Pilou Asbaek), they press ahead. And they gain the help of courageous and wily local Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier).

Chloe shelters the new arrivals in the house she shares with her invalid aunt and her 8-year-old brother, Paul (Gianny Taufer). Though Chloe only says her aunt is ill, the old woman's symptoms are not those of any ordinary sickness. This is an early hint that something eerie is unfolding in Chloe's village.

Once Boyce adventitiously infiltrates the heavily guarded church while trying to evade capture, more details -- as well as a fresh challenge for the beleaguered grunts -- emerge. Mengele-like Dr. Schmidt (Erich Redman), it seems, has been carrying out frightful experiments in the structure's basement aimed at creating a force of invincible zombie soldiers.

Amid the frequently hideous proceedings that follow, Ray and Smith's script, by contrasting Boyce's peaceable outlook with Ford's no-holds-barred approach to combat, explores the legitimacy of using brutal means to battle the kind of evil personified by Wafner. As the plot progresses, we also discover that Tibbit is not so uncaring as he likes to appear.

Additionally, the placement of both the transmitter and Dr. Schmidt's perverse laboratory within the confines of a house of worship is no accident. If only implicitly, "Overlord" uses this setting to portray Christianity, or faith in general, both as a civilizing force and as the antithesis of the temporarily prevailing Nazi depravity. Paul's wide-eyed innocence is employed to a similar end.

Though suitable only for the hardiest, "Overlord" does have a heart to balance its horrors.

The film contains extreme, sometimes excessive, bloody violence, including torture, many grisly images, the preliminaries of an aberrant act of compelled sex, numerous uses of profanity, at least one milder oath and frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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CAPSULE REVIEW

"Overlord" (Paramount)

This weird, wild but surprisingly effective blend of war story and chiller from director Julius Avery is far too gory and gruesome for most moviegoers. Those with a taste for the macabre and a strong stomach can follow the exploits of a humane GI (Jovan Adepo) and his more ruthless commander (Wyatt Russell) as, on the eve of D-Day, they and a few comrades (most prominently John Magaro and Iain de Caestecker) survive being parachuted into France to take out a radio transmitter the Germans have placed on the steeple of a church. Though vastly outnumbered by the occupiers (led by Pilou Asbaek), they gain the help of a courageous and wily local (Mathilde Ollivier) and press ahead. But they soon face a far different challenge after discovering that a Mengele-like doctor (Erich Redman) has been carrying out frightful experiments in the basement of the church aimed at creating a force of invincible zombie soldiers. Amid the frequently hideous proceedings, screenwriters Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith explore the legitimacy of using brutal means to combat evil and implicitly portray Christianity both as a civilizing force and as the antithesis of the temporarily prevailing Nazi depravity. Extreme, sometimes excessive bloody violence, including torture, many grisly images, the preliminaries of an aberrant act of compelled sex, numerous uses of profanity, at least one milder oath, frequent rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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CLASSIFICATION

"Overlord" (Paramount) -- Catholic News Service classification, L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. Motion Picture Association of America rating, R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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