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Valkyrie (2008) PG-13 120min

December 26th, 2008 by Maxim · 1 Comment · 11,769 Views


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Based on a true story, Valkyrie is a historical thriller set in WWII Nazi Germany, starring Tom Cruise and many famous British actors, and directed by Bryan Singer (also directed Superman Returns).

The plot: 1943. German Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is severely wounded in North Africa, and returns home to Nazi Germany without an eye, an arm and two fingers. Soon he joins the German Resistance in a July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. He conceives the plan to exploit Hitler’s emergency plan dubbed “Operation Valkyrie” (after Hitler’s beloved opera Die Walküre by Wagner). This plan was approved by the Führer and was a contingency plan to be executed in the event of Hitler’s death to continue the operation of the government. Von Stauffenberg now needs to execute the plan, even though he endangers not only himself, but also his family and other member of the coup.

The good: For the price of one ticket, you get to see not one but two failed plots to kill Hitler – out of total 150 attempts on his life and 15 plots by the Germans themselves. A pretty detailed information about both plots can be found in many sources, including the 1992 book by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci, “Target Hitler: The Plots To Kill Adolf Hitler”. A lot of suspense in the movie. We all know the plot is going to fail, and we get to root for the plotters and their families. What will SS or Gestapo do to them if/when they get caught? Also, what motivated conspirators to risk their lives? Why did they fail? Tom Cruise gave a surprisingly convincing performance as an army colonel disillusioned about the goals of the Nazi party and national socialism, a humanist who believes that the war is going to be lost and with Hitler’s death Germany may be spared from destruction by negotiating peace with Allies. Yet Cruise’s performance does not compare to one of Bill Nighy and Terrence Stamp. The entire cast is brilliant. Every face tells a story: I could not help but feel that there’s a lot more to each character – each deserved a separate movie made about them. Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, just to name a few, were also cast in supporting roles. Thomas Kretschmann of the Peter Jackson’s King Kong, The Pianist and U-571 fame is almost guaranteed to be cast in a WWII movie as a German these days. The movie is pretty well shot. The plot is thought-provoking, considering the July 20 plot failed just a few months before Hitler committed suicide. Interesting to see the relationship between SS, Gestapo and the army in Hitler’s Germany. Why did a handful of brave men and women risk their lives, despite the oath to Hitler and Germany, went along with the plan?

Kevin McNally, Christian Berkel, Bill Nighy, Tom Cruise, Terence Stamp, David Schofield and Kenneth Brannagh in United Artist's Valkyrie

Kevin McNally, Christian Berkel, Bill Nighy, Tom Cruise, Terence Stamp, David Schofield and Kenneth Brannagh in United Artist's Valkyrie

The bad: Major plot holes and continuity problems. No attention paid to little details. For example, during an air-raid, Stauffenberg’s family goes to the basement, but they don’t turn the lights off in the house. This is bombing 101! People were arrested and even executed for not turning the lights off during air-raids. I used to collect posters, and I remember the poster saying “Light in the window – signal for the enemy”. The marketing for the movie was all wrong – it was pumping up Tom Cruise cast as the main character, but later the studio switched to market Bryan Singer’s direction. Cruise’s religion, Scientology, also stirred criticism in Germany, where the movie will open in January 2009 under title “Operation Walküre – Das Stauffenberg-Attentat”. The poster of the film also creates wrong impression of the film – it looks like a superhero movie or a comic book. There’s nothing in the poster that would point out the drama, thriller and suspense aspects of the movie. Also, why did a movie about Hitler has to come out on Christmas eve? Did not like the actor cast as Hitler, David Bamber – he was just wearing a lot of makeup. It’s almost as if director was afraid to take on the character of Hitler and showed him as little as possible on the screen, deciding to focus on the coup instead. There are no civilian German people in the movie, and I’d like to see more about their condition during the war. Perhaps it’s the subject for another movie. I did not like the smooth transition from German to English in the beginning of the movie. The movie should either have been done entirely in English or in German casting Germans with English subtitles. In order to imitate the articulate German accent the actors that were cast had to have strong… English accent. Too little character development; instead the director focuses on the thrill and suspense. Too little trust from the director that the audience is well educated about the war and Stauffenberg’s plot – a complete opposite of what Downfall was.

The summary: Valkyrie is an enjoyable WWII conspiracy thriller, quite intense.

Memorable quotes:

Henning von Tresckow: We have to show the world that not all of us are like him. Otherwise, this will always be Hitler’s Germany.

Ludwig Beck: Just remember: This is War. Nothing ever goes according to plan.

The reference:

  1. James P. Duffy, Vincent L. Ricci (1992): Target Hitler: The Plots To Kill Adolf Hitler
  2. Joachim Fest, Bruce Little (1997): Plotting Hitler’s Death: The Story of German Resistance?
  3. Fabian Von Schlabrendorff (2005): They Almost Killed Hitler: based on the personal account of Fabian Von Schlabrendorff

Related movies:

The cast: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg - Tom Cruise | Major-General Henning von Tresckow - Kenneth Branagh | General Friedrich Olbricht - Bill Nighy | General Friedrich Fromm - Tom Wilkinson | Nina von Stauffenberg - Carice van Houten | Major Otto Ernst Remer - Thomas Kretschmann | Ludwig Beck - Terence Stamp | General Erich Fellgiebel - Eddie Izzard | Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim – Christian Berkel | Lieutenant Werner von Haeften – Jamie Parker | Adolf Hitler - David Bamber | Colonel Heinz Brandt – Tom Hollander | Captain Haans – Danny Webb | Dr. Joseph Goebbels – Harvey Friedman

The crew: Director – Bryan Singer (Dirty Sexy Money, X Men-2, Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects) | Screenplay – Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) & Nathan Alexander | Producers – Gilbert Adler, Nathan Alexander, Chris Brock, Lee Cleary, Tom Cruise, Ken Kamins, Chris Lee, Oliver Lüer, Christopher McQuarrie, Henning Molfenter, Robert F. Phillips, Bryan Singer, Paula Wagner, Jeffrey Wetzel, Charlie Woebcken | Orginal Music – John Ottman | Cinematography - Newton Thomas Sigel | Film Editing – John Ottman | Casting – Roger Mussenden

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Rated 5/5 on Dec 26 2008
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Tags: Drama · Epics/Historical · Foreign · Germany · Movies · Thrillers/Suspense · USA · War

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Dave // Jun 8, 2009 at 6:50 am

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    I missed a chance to see this in theaters but I’ve heard the blu-ray of the movie includes a documentary directed by Singer on the background of Valkyrie. I’ve only seen behind the scenes clips (the closest thing to a documentary I’ve found is this: Is it possible for you to review the Valkyrie blu-ray release?

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