Genre: Thriller and War Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
Release Date: December 25th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Bryan Singer Actors: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann, Kevin R. McNally
es, Tom Cruise is a bizarre choice to portray a one-handed, eye-patch-wearing, recusant colonel in Hitler’s army. But if he can be a vampire, a samurai, and a balding movie producer, why not a German officer? After a clever transition from subtitles to English, “Valkyrie” unfolds a mesmerizing, lesser-known series of events that succeeds in maintaining constant suspense – regardless of the ultimate outcome obvious to all. Though it may not not the best WWII movie to premiere this year, “Valkyrie” still supplies the thrills it promises – and shouldn’t be discarded simply for its unconventional casting, which might look to many as shaping Nazi atrocities into high-octane adventure fantasy.
Based on the true story of the last plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, “Valkyrie” follows the determined Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) as he joins forces with high-ranking dissenting officers Olbricht (Bill Nighy), Beck (Terence Stamp), and von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) to plan the coup. Revising operation Valkyrie, Hitler’s own policy to protect his regime, the conspirators arrange to eradicate Hitler and mobilize infantry reserves to take over Berlin. But as Beck states, in a military operation nothing ever goes according to plan…
Although it’s primarily a history lesson about a World War II treason collusion many are unaware of (and further trivialized by the amount of murder attempts given during the coda), “Valkyrie” makes superb use of anticipation and tension to keep the relatively simple story consistently entertaining. Many might criticize the use of Tom Cruise in the lead role of a German agitator, but the language barrier and problematic accent are immediately taken care of in a manner that bypasses the use of subtitles (exactly like the method seen in “The Hunt for Red October”) – and it’s certainly less distracting than the English-speaking absurdity of films like “10,000 B.C.” The acting itself never gets in the way of progressing the plot and the characters are just engaging enough that indifference rather than disgust will likely be its biggest challenge.
“Valkyrie” works most best if expectations are at a minimum when going into the theater (which, of course, could be said about a lot of movies). The trailer makes it look like it’s entirely an action film with shades of “Mission: Impossible” mixed in for good measure, though its true nature is that of a political thriller. To the viewer with few suppositions, “Valkyrie” should contribute a number of surprises – namely in the factual historical elements, the nail-biting suspense that surrounds them, and the poignant interactions of the soldiers who risked their lives to fight against the dictatorship they initially supported. It may not be tricky to hypothesize the conclusion, but Bryan Singer’s direction keeps the plot moving effortlessly and the personas unvaryingly amusing (especially the supporting cast of veteran character actors, including Tom Wilkinson, Tom Hollander, Eddie Izzard, and Carice van Houten – along with Nighy, Stamp, and Branagh).
– The Massie Twins