Criterion Sunday 382: Overlord (1975)

There have been a few films set during or after World War II in the Criterion Collection recently (The Burmese Harp, 49th Parallel and Green for Danger just to name three), and usually war films — especially those about the British and Allied experience during the war — don’t tend to do much for me, often being little more than patriotic exercises in triumphalism. This breaks the mould a little, though, being an intriguing blend of archival war footage from London’s Imperial War Museum with a narrative about a young man, Thomas Beddows (Brian Stirner), being trained up ahead of the D-Day landings in Normandy in June 1944 (which is to say, Operation Overlord, from which the film takes its title). Thus it strikes a very interesting and slightly odd, elegiac tone, as Thomas muddles his way through basic training, strikes up some friendships and then is shipped off to the beaches and the film’s distinct anti-climax. It’s a film that manages to be about war as much as a portrayal of the experience of one person during that conflict, and about the ways that the way we might approach the world as civilians clash with military expectations at these heightened times. It’s moving without being mawkish, and puts this enormous historical moment at a small, human level.


FILM REVIEW: Criterion Collection
Director Stuart Cooper; Writers Cooper and Christopher Hudson; Cinematographer John Alcott; Starring Brian Stirner, Davyd Harries; Length 84 minutes.

Seen at home (Blu-ray), Wellington, Sunday 20 December 2020.