Movie Review: Valkyrie (2008)

Tom Cruise in Valkyrie

Photo: MGM / United Artists

Make no mistake, this is hardly a film hell bent on historical accuracy. I don’t say this to imply the film itself is historically inaccurate, as a matter of fact I have no idea how accurate it is and have no intention to ever find out, that is, until the Blu-ray edition tells me what they believe the “true” history of the matter to be. Instead, Valkyrie is an action film with fate of the world implications at its core, utilizing real events to up the ante. It relies on the fact society has an outright hatred toward Adolf Hitler and never wastes time building him up as any more of a villain than he already is. Instead, it does a proper job of establishing its cast of characters out to assassinate him and the ins, outs, whys and hows of the plan. From that point on it becomes a mediocre film with an opening act that tends to linger and a finale that makes up for most of it.

Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and begins the film with a soft spoken bit of German voiceover that bleeds into English as the rest of the film plays out. The fact the film features one of America’s most all-American stars as a German colonel was a bit off-putting for me for some reason, but not to any degree that it affects the film’s ultimate impression. Aiding Stauffenberg is a cast of characters made up of an A-list of international stars including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann, Eddie Izzard, Christian Berkel and Terence Stamp. With Bryan Singer at the helm it shouldn’t be surprising this film is entertaining, but it also ends up mildly hollow when all is said and done.

Cruise is a strange choice for such a role, but he neither hurts or helps the feature as much as he carries out his role to a satisfactory measure. After all the idea of a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler as a result of the atrocities of World War II is the intrigue here and the way the event itself is executed extremely well and certainly raises the tension in the film’s final moments. It all depends on whether or not you have bought into the characters up to that point, if so you should be good, otherwise you may be a bit bored.

Names such as Nighy and Wilkinson are called into service and execute their performances to expectation. Thomas Kretschmann also plays a great part in the feature leading the German regiment initially duped into aiding the plot to kill Hitler only to later be the source of its failure.

The true success of this film is to manage to create tension where there really should be none. You know the plot fails, yet you hope it will succeed and there are moments you can see where they just may be able to pull it off until history gets in the way. The film relies on your hope for good to triumph and for someone to stand up against a man now known to be among history’s most well known and hated villains. While not perfect there is some enjoyment to be had, a matter of how much is the question. I can’t see anyone coming out with a glowing opinion, but it’s a hard film not to like.

GRADE: C+

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