Coming Soon: Operation Overlord (2021) - Reviewed


The war genre is one of the most versatile visual mediums.  Films range from existential horror to heartbreaking stories of heroism and sacrifice. Texas auteur Brett Bentman's latest offering is a compact, high voltage dose of gripping action while also being an unexpected foray into the humanity of those who fight.  Featuring a remarkable ensemble, pristine visuals, and a refreshing take on the "mission" trope, Operation Overlord is a thoughtful rumination on honor and friendship. 

Days before the invasion of Normandy, Allied forces learn that one of their own has been captured and under duress, may divulge the details of the legendary operation.  Two soldiers are sent on a possible suicide mission to rescue their ally in order to ensure the Nazi's defeat.  Bentman's script is the strongest element.  On the surface, the plotline seems predictable and derivative of other war stories.  However, as the two principals begin their sojourn into Nazi territory, what begins as a simple rescue film slowly evolves into a military hangout picture.  The interactions between Thom Hallum's Brown and Billy Blair's Anderson are the heart's blood of Overlord.  Even while under fire, there's an undeniable ambiance of humility and grace that Hallum and Blair bring to the proceedings. 

This is juxtaposed with the violence.  Easily Bentman's most brutal feature, each engagement within the complex feels tense.  Bullets, blades, fists, and even fire are the weapons that are wielded in lost corridors and blood-stained prison cells.  Scott Ross's cinematography frames each of the encounters with a sense of vulnerability that only increases the stakes of each confrontation.  Jeff Hamm's editing strings together the carnage with an operatic sense of cohesion.  Balancing the human moments in between the insanity of war is a delicate task and Bentman and his team miraculously present them in tandem.  

Stacey Sheffield's Private Donovan is perhaps the greatest symbol of this achievement. His performance is both a welcome surprise and refreshing subversion of expectations.  This is a film about flawed people trying to do their best while living in a nightmare.  Sheffield's Donovan is emblematic of this concept, harnessing fear, hatred, and rage in a vortex that is relatable and organic.  In the end, these are people who the viewer wants to succeed and has no problem rooting for them because Bentman has given them substance and character.  

On the other end of the spectrum are Tom Zembrod and Robert Keith's villainous Nazis.  Keith spends the duration of the picture forgoing chewing and opting to annihilate the scenery with his Siegmund, the officer in charge of Sheffield's interrogation.  His final confrontation with Hallum is one of the best sequences of the film, as flawed good and pure evil collide.  Zembrod's Koch is an enigma, a subservient officer whose motivations remain obfuscated throughout.  His chemistry with Keith is what makes the dynamic work, and the yield is a pair of memorable bad guys who somehow both lean into the stereotypes and upend them. 

Coming soon to video on demand, Operation Overlord is one of Bentman's best films.  A departure from the Texas criminal underbelly, this is a unique war film that tells a simple story with vibrant characters that puts the mission in the background and the personalities in the fore. The result?  An innovative approach to a genre in desperate need of creativity that will not disappoint.  

--Kyle Jonathan