I'm kind of over Saturday night football games. It seems like just about every Notre Dame game this year starts at 7:30 PM. I get the atmosphere is cool and it's big for recruiting, but I don't like waiting all day for the game to start. When they played OSU I was on pins and needles all day and the way the game ended, how was I expected to go to sleep? Anyways, let's talk about...
I slept on this movie for way too long and I'm not sure how it flew so far under my radar. It's an alternate-history, horror movie set during World War II! Seriously, hook that directly into my veins! The movie starts with a bunch of paratroopers flying over the skies of France. They're heading to the country a day before D-Day to knock out a radar tower before the invasion. They hammer home that if this mission fails, D-Day will be a disaster for the Allies.
We get a little discussion from the characters, well the ones who matter, so we can see who we're going to be spending the movie with. There's the main character, Private Boyce, if you can't tell by his demeanor, you get it from the banter from his platoon, he's not exactly comfortable with killing. There's also a war photographer, played by Fitz from "Agents of Shield." Before I move on, two things; I will only refer to him as "Fitz" and the other thing, he has a really good American accent. He's a Scottish actor with a thick accent in real life, but he absolutely nails the accent. Even in the parts where he's screaming, his native accent doesn't poke through. The only other actor I've seen who can do an American accent that well is James McAvoy. He was on point in the movie The Conspirator. There's also the loudmouth soldier with a thick New York accent that is in every war movie ever made, and yes I'm including war movies about the medieval era, that's how big a trope it is. There's the sergeant that everyone respects and a newcomer, Corporal Ford, who is quietly gazing out the window but shows off a gruff demeanor. He gets named second in command and by that dialogue you know Sarge isn't long for this world and Corporal Ford will be taking command sooner, rather than later. I like these scenes because they do their best to make it seem organic but it's clearly the filmmakers saying, "Hey, pay attention to these people. They'll be important later."
There was something I noticed that hammers home this movie isn't from our timeline. For starters, Pvt. Boyce and Sergeant Rensin are both black. The US military was still segregated at the time and there would be no way a black officer would be put in charge of white soldiers. The thing I read and didn't notice at the time is that there's not a single swastika shown throughout the movie. My guess is the filmmakers wanted to sidestep any issues dealing with race or its symbols by ignoring it, I don't quite know how I feel about it. I enjoyed that we didn't have to deal with scenes with people being racist, but I don't really like changing history. World War II did have the Greatest Generation but I don't think the real and ugly sins of the past should be whitewashed away. I'm rambling, so let's move on.
Soon after we're introduced to these characters, the Germans introduce themselves to the American soldiers with a barrage of anti-aircraft weapons. We're then treated to some awesome visuals and a wonderfully tense sequence where their plane is hit and explodes. Some soldiers are dying horribly while others are desperately trying to get off the plane. It is wonderfully done and when Pvt. Boyce lands in the water, seeing the bodies of fellow soldiers who weren't so lucky is an incredibly effective scene. This whole opening sequence is so incredibly well done and once it starts it doesn't give you a chance to catch your breath for quite a while after.
We then follow Pvt. Boyce as he tries to reach the rendezvous point. He eventually meets up with the sergeant who has about 15 German soldiers with guns drawn on him. Boyce prepares to go in there all guns blazing but he's stopped by Corporal Ford telling him Sarge is already dead. The two can only watch as their CO gets gunned down by the Nazi soldiers. This scene does multiple things; it shows why Sergeant Rensin was so beloved, showing no fear in the face of his death. It shows Pvt. Boyce will try to do the right thing at the wrong time and it gives us insight into Corporal Ford. He's pragmatic and will straight up let people die because the mission is what's important.
They then come across a French woman who takes them to her village, which is under the brutal thumb of Captain Wafner, a sadistic Nazi soldier, admirably played by the actor who played Euron Greyjoy when "Game of Thrones" started to get really bad. After some bad luck, or one could argue it was good luck, Pvt. Boyce learns what is really going on and the mission takes on a new meaning.
You know what I really liked about this movie? For the longest time, there's nothing horror-related. It's just a straight-up, entertaining war movie. It's the survivors of the crash doing their best to complete their mission, surrounded by Nazis and a fast-approaching deadline that could be the difference between a successful operation, or an untold amount of American deaths storming the beaches of Normandy. It plays out similar to the scene in "Band of Brothers" and wouldn't seem out of place in that show. Things start to pick up once Boyce accidentally finds himself in the lab owned by the Nazis and he steals a vial of some red liquid. It's full of disturbing visuals and haunting screams and cries of those being experimented on.
He makes it back just in time to see Captain Euron Greyjoy kill one of his friends and we get into the real horror aspects. I don't want to describe it here because the moment is shocking and really good. Then when you get to see that vial in action and what it does to a person, it's wonderful. Boyce didn't have time to think of the philosophical questions of his actions, he just acted and it's wonderfully acted and probably the best part of the movie. Seriously, the moment this movie becomes a horror film is well worth the time. My eyes went wide the moment it crossed into horror territory.
That's a lot about the plot but I'm leaving even more out. As I mentioned earlier, this is a war movie for the longest time and then suddenly, it's not. When it's not, it's better to go in fresh. I liked it a lot. If you're looking for a movie to scare you, this isn't it. But what it is is a wonderful film that makes a right turn into horror. A lot of the German command were monsters, and this movie shows you what happens when a monster turns into an actual monster.