Project Valkyrie was the final of many attempts on Hitler's life during World War II. The atrocities caused by both Hitler and the Nazi party have been endlessly documented, but much less space has been given to the Germans actively resisting the Fuhrer, which was a dangerous and lethal move, given that not publicly vowing allegiance to Hitler – and certainly rallying support away from him – was sufficient cause for being put in jail, and often to death. Project Valkyrie remains the penultimate, and most elaborate, resistance effort. And the fact that it was carried out by many of Hitler's most senior military officers makes the scenario all the more compelling.
The story centers around Carl Von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), a top military officer known for his discomfort with the developments within the Reich. After being seriously injured during a battle in northern Africa, he returns to Germany, where he is soon connected with a group of other dissidents within the military. While planning an overthrow of the Fuhrer, the group redrafts Project Valkyrie, which is a contingency restructuring of the government and military in the event of the Fuhrer's death. This plan requires the much trickier first step of their mission: to assassinate Hitler.
From history we know the ultimate fate of this plot against Hitler. And the challenge is to keep us intrigued in the story, given this already decided outcome. Granted, this is no different from the challenge of other historical films, but with a thriller you have to keep the pace from being hampered by this foreknowledge. It's not just about the facts, but also the chase.
Valkyrie is a film that has everything going for it. It has an all-star cast, a meticulously researched script, access to the real locations from history, and a solid director in Bryan Singer. But for all of its assets, the film doesn't always fire on all cylinders.
The film can be viewed in two halves. The first half is background information, where we are introduced to the characters, the current state of affairs in Germany, how this group of dissidents came together, and how exactly they plan to achieve their mission. The second half of the film follows the actual execution of the assassination attempt, and this half is delivered with genuine intrigue and suspense. But the first half of the movie simply feels like a rush to get to this action. Characters and situations are quickly presented, but not with enough space to center the audience in this world before racing forward. As a result, it becomes easy to feel out of sorts on what you suspect is a good film, if they would just take the time to go over all the details, and not just the exciting ones at the end.
Valkyrie still holds together, and is thoroughly enjoyable depending on how familiar you are with this period of history. But it seems like a squandered opportunity, to have all of these things going for it, and then to leave out whole chunks of the back story, character introductions, and motivation.
Video / Audio
Valkyrie receives a nice, if imperfect, transfer to high-def. In general, detail is very crisp and contrast is handled well. The color scheme for the film is somewhere in between a muted vintage look and a more vibrant modern film, although the color that is present – handled especially well with the costumes and period set designs – stands out admirably. Some of the scenes, especially low-light interior and night shots, suffer a bit with grain and black level contrast. It's not terribly distracting, but it does knock it a notch below reference. But the cinematography itself is very well executed, and that carries through nicely to the Blu-ray transfer.