ValkyrieDirected by: Bryan Singer Cast: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp Running Time: 2 hrs Rating: PG-13
Plot: Based on the true story, a proud German military man, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), is loyal to his country before his allegiance to Adolf Hitler (David Bamper). He along with other German politicians and soldiers look to use Hilter's own emergency plan--known as Operation Valkyrie--to assassinate Hitler and seize control of Berlin.
Who’s It For? First and foremost, it's a war movie, with enough well-crafted suspense. There isn't much violence, only one important woman's role and it also should be in contention for end of the year awards.
Expectations: Tom Cruise tries to kill Hilter while wearing an eye patch. That might be a tough sell. Look, I don't care what you think of Cruise's personal life, he makes good choices with films, and typically gives his all to the performance. I was on board.
Actors: Tom Cruise as Col. Stauffenberg: From the very first scene, Cruise owns this movie. One thing I love is that Stauffenberg's injuries don't dictate who he becomes. He is always thinking first and foremost about a Hitler-free Germany. And his few moments with his family give you an understanding of his true hopes and motivations. For a film with only a few women, Stauffenberg and his wife Nina (Carice van Houten) give a good, heartfelt goodbye kiss. Score: 9
Bill Nighy as General Friedrich Olbricht: At first Nighy seems out of place as a German general, but he and those glasses quickly fit and then it's just the layers of the man we are curious about. Olbricht is one of the few that battles his beliefs, and we are left with wondering what could have been. Score: 9
Tom Wilkinson as General Friedrich Fromm: Fromm is interested in being on the right team at the right time and Wilkinson is becoming the go-to actor for supporting roles, Michael Clayton being the best example. He arrives on screen and gives a hint of comedy with his bravado that simply adds another layer to this film. Score: 8
Rest of Cast: Stamp and Branagh add quality to this film just because they are in it, though it would have been nice to get more of Branagh who disappears halfway through. I guess history gets in the way of his performance. Eddie Izzard is jaw dropping just because it takes you a second to realize it's him. Thomas Kretschmann is the perfect German soldier in his few scenes, but Stauffenberg's sidekick Lieutenant Werner von Haeften (Jamie Parker) is the true scene stealer. Partly because he's the most unknown in a cast of heavyweights. Score: 10
Talking: More commanding from Cruise. He is so assertive giving orders, that it's easy to believe why the German resistance is quick to believe in him and follow him to the end. And the moving from German to English is flawlessly done. Singer pretty much says, "Look, we aren't going to have German accents, you're just going to have to believe." And I completely did. Score: 9
Sights: Every war scene I compare to the beginning of Saving Private Ryan. I don't mean to, it just happens. And Valkyrie holds up. More importantly, Cruise's fake eye, missing hand and missing digits is even more believable than Leutinant Dan's magic legs. Even the shots of Berghof are stunningly recreated. Score: 9
Sounds: "Die Walkure" by Richard Wagner proves to be the inspiration for Stauffenberg's plan, though you may know it as "Kill the Wabbit." Tension throughout with this score. And really the score is a huge catalyst for this film. People walking and talking isn't worth sitting on the edge of your seat, but it sure feels like it in this film. And Hitler is given the Darth Vader treatment here. The repetitive thump of drums everytime Hitler is on the screen makes me think of the fictional man in black (in a positive way). And yes, I completely understand one is pure evil and the other is only fictional evil, unless of course George Lucas continues to beat us in the head with tales of Anakin. Score: 10
Best Scene: The tension of Col. Stauffenberg trying to put a plastic explosion in his leather sachel is completely Hollywood--it pulls all the right strings of tension. I had nervous sweaty palms many times during this film, but this was the most nerve-wrenching.
Ending: It's always impressive when your gut tells you that you already know the outcome of a film. It's inevitable, yet your wrestle with it the entire time. Most films fail at this when history has already written the ending. Valkyrie finds that perfect balance while staying true (hopefully) to the reality of the situation.
Questions: I was amazed that this was just one assassination attempt on Hitler. It immediately makes me want to know all the others. So, instead of spending time in a library looking at books, let's get to work Hollywood. Plus, I have questions about the German SS, but luckily I can just ask my wife, the history major.
Rewatchability: Absolutely. It moves along swiftly, and isn't killed by an exceptionally long running time (two hours). Plus, I want to hear how the suspense holds up once you know all the ins and outs of the story.
I have said this too many times ... World War II will never run out of stories. So I must stop bringing this up every time ... after Definace of course ... There are infinite WWII film possibilities and Valkyrie is one of best. My hunch is the majority of Americans will not know the story of "Operation Valkyrie." The "what if" scenario is just too cool in this true story. Even though you have a hunch on the outcome, it's impossible not to get attached to these characters. And there are so many characters to choose from. It seems the first half of the film is filled with moments where you see another amazing actor step on the stage and knock the role out. Nighy, Wilkinson, Branagh, Stamp, Izzard all shine, but this is truly one man's film. Cruise proves it doesn't matter what you think of his life, you must take notice of one of the most dynamic actors of our time. Singer makes this all possible, and this film is on my short list as one of the year's best.
Final Score: 9/10