For decades, filmmakers have tackled the horrors of war to tell moving stories of courage and self-sacrifice. Independent filmmaker Brett Bentman takes a shot at the genre with Operation Overlord. The writer/director has the daunting task of telling a war story with a limited budget and cast and mostly succeeds.
Operation Overlord is another name for the Battle of Normandy, in which the Allied forces successfully invaded German-occupied Western Europe during World War II. A week beforehand, American troops are positioned in the West of the beach, awaiting the day of the invasion. But, the Allies learn that one of their own, Private Donovan (Stacey A Sheffield), has been taken by the Nazis. Afraid of what the soldier may reveal about Operation Overlord, Colonel Sampson Landy (Woody Wilson Hall) tasks the rock-ribbed and devoted Corporal Brown (Thom Hallum) to walk the 30 miles to rescue Donovan and find out what he divulged under duress. Brown enlists the help of Corporal Anderson (Billy Blair), and together, they infiltrate Nazi territory, unsure what to expect.
The plot of Operation Overlord is relatively straightforward. Two soldiers are recruited for a dangerous rescue mission, and they form a friendship along the way. They do this knowing danger looms around every corner. The issue is that Bentman struggles to elicit the necessary tension and urgency, leaving George Palousis’ ominous, histrionic score to do the heavy lifting.
“…they infiltrate Nazi territory, unsure what to expect.”
To make up for the lack of urgency, the characters are engaging and have vivid motivations. Brown is portrayed as a staunch American soldier who will always serve his country, but at what cost? None of the characters are completely virtuous, but war forces you not to be. Anderson is more flippant and reckless, but even he has someone back home. Together, Brown and Anderson have an excellent repartee.
Furthermore, Hallum and Blair are really good in their roles, going as far as to elevate the contrived dialogue and humanize their characters. Finally, Robert Keith and Tom Zembrod are convincingly vile as Nazis. In fact, all of the performances are fairly decent.
While there’s plenty of erratic gunfire and bloody fistfights, Bentman regularly looks inward at the characters and toys with their greatest fears. Director of photography Scott Ross provides close-ups and low-angles. These shots help highlight the performances, but more often than not, the framing is slightly off. One of the chief settings is an abandoned, winding building with grimy hallways, and some much-needed tension is developed in this tortuous setting.
In Operation Overlord, the characters are at the forefront, and they are given the time to reflect on the choices they are forced to make and the ones they already made. Perhaps additional antagonists or a more controlled tone could have better upheld the suspense as the moments of drama, dread, and sorrow don’t entirely mesh. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining directorial effort from Brett Bentman that serves as a satisfactory depiction of bravery and sacrifice. All in all, the movie is worth a watch for fans of the war genre.
"…a satisfactory depiction of bravery and sacrifice."