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Valkyrie (2008)

Many saw evil. They dared to stop it.

Directed by:

Bryan Singer

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 121 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12A

Country: United States

Critics were slamming this film before it ever came out, for no other reason, really, than the easy mockability of Tom Cruise. And Tom Cruise with an eye patch as a Hitler-killing Nazi? That’s good stuff! It’s too bad that some of them didn’t reserve judgment until, you know, they had actually seen it. For a movie where you know the ending before it even starts (thanks a lot history), Valkyrie is still a suspenseful, superbly acted political thriller that made me forget all about Mr. Cruise’s couch-jumping escapades.

For the unhistorically informed (like me), there was a group of pretty high up officials in the German army who were trying to overthrow Hitler (David Bamber), and right there in the middle was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise). They all know the price they’ll pay if their plans fail, yet von Stauffenberg and his crew valiantly fight the good fight to save their country from tyranny and prove to the world that “not all of [them] were like him.”

Just like when I watched Titanic, I sat through Valkyrie hoping that maybe all of history was wrong and that the end was going to be different than what I knew to be true but, alas, it was not. It’s kinda funny—for a film based on actual events, plot twists and turns unfold as if part of a complex fictional story of political intrigue. As stated by Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), “Remember, this is a military operation. Nothing ever goes according to plan,” and though the “plan” is set to run like a well-oiled machine, there are human beings involved, so things spin off course quickly once set into motion. That’s when the movie shines, though—we’re already onboard with killing Hitler—duh—but it’s when we know everything is about to crumble that our emotional investment becomes real. None of the main players—Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh—falter, and during pivotal scenes of triumph, or even more powerful, desolate resignation, these men exhibit the exact emotions called upon for their rank and status. There are no over the top, grand awards attempts here, just men who subtly wear their impending doom in their eyes. The score adds the perfect tension, and even some of the camera shots lend trepidation to an operation on the road to failure. My only complaint is that maybe there could’ve been a little more focus on von Stauffenberg’s family, but I’m not even sure that’s a flaw—I just would have liked to have seen more of what he knew he might lose. Small moments, such as Cruise’s face when he realizes that all is lost and yet he must continue to lead, elevate this movie to more than just historical thriller sabotage, and all those people who dismissed it sight unseen just don’t know what they’re missing.

It's Got: Talented supporting cast, Suspense, A cool glass eye.

It Needs: A little more of the von Stauffenberg family.

Alternatives:

Black Book, Schindler's List, The Reader

Summary

Sure, you know what didn’t happen, but Valkyrie is still surprisingly suspenseful, boasts some great acting, and still manages to provide an interesting history lesson.

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