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Movie Review: Valkyrie

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There is a tendency to pile on someone when they are down, and in the case of Tom Cruise it seems he may have abetted some of that with his freakishly self-righteous behavior in the public eye. His capital with his audience has been severely diminished, then, due to his public persona taking such precedence over his screen one. Add to that the incredibly risky and failing enterprise of his purchase of a stake in United Artists after his unceremonious release from his longtime production partner, Paramount. His first film for UA, Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs (2007) was a flop. His newest one, the troubled Valkyrie, directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), has had its release delayed a few times now. So what a pleasant surprise it is to report that Singer and Cruise deliver one solid thriller that could help launch Cruise back into critical favor if not necessarily commercial success.

The timing of this dark World War II-era drama's Christmas release is commercially ill conceived. Certainly, they have a film that I'm sure they believed had potential for some Oscars in the technical and story realm, which may explain trying to squeeze it out before the end of the year. Frequent Singer collaborator Christopher McQuarrie and cowriter Nathan Alexander have come up with an exciting script based on the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, on July 20, 1944, hatched by some of his closest officers. The problem is that, as we all know, they failed. It is hard to see how such a downer will succeed during the joyous holiday season. It's a shame really, because Tom Cruise is great in the role of the plot's ringleader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.

Tom Cruise in ValkyrieFrequently dismissed as a celebrity personality more than a true actor, Cruise is excellent in the part. Just like other larger than life movie stars like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, Cruise is remarkably adept at using his public persona to inform and enhance his performances. In this case, the embattled Stauffenberg, carrying the full and sole responsibility for the execution of the plot, and then contending with the ramifications of its failure is not unlike the present Cruise, the embattled actor carrying the full and sole responsibility for the success of this film and United Artists.

Stauffenberg's self-righteous arrogance contributes to the implementation of his plan before his confirmation of Hitler's death, a significant blunder as it turns out. Unlike a Sean Penn or Robert De Niro, Cruise is no chameleon in this one, although he can be (see Tropic Thunder). For instance, there is no trace of a German accent in his performance. But Singer effectively dismisses the need for one in the opening of the film using an artistic effect reminiscent of a similar one that occurred near the beginning of The Hunt for Red October (1990).

Perhaps Singer is the best director to effectively interpret this story. Singer is an expert at servicing the entire cast in an ensemble drama, as is evident in The Usual Suspects (1995), and his two X-Men films, so that no one seems underutilized. Here he accomplishes that nicely, giving all the actors, such as Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp, and Tom Wilkinson, their moments in the film. And the director brings some nice surreal touches to the film, often using the one-eyed Stauffenberg's glass prosthesis to induce a small touch of paranoia at inopportune moments.

Recalling some of the best conspiracy thrillers of the seventies, Valkyrie is a suspenseful film that should satisfy even Cruise's detractors. Hopefully, it will succeed commercially as well, saving the perpetually endangered United Artists and Cruise's career.

Valkyrie opens nationwide on Christmas Day.

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About Tony Dayoub

  • mike

    Thanks for the review!

  • Megan

    has there been printed/recorded information about the story behind the decision to name the film such? i haven’t been able to find anything that completely links the existence of a valkyrie to Stauffenberg or the plot…

  • Megan, ‘Operation Valkyrie‘ was the codename of the real-life plot to assassinate Hitler, which the movie is about.

  • Thanks, Mike.


    Dr. Dreadful is not exactly correct. Without revealing too much of the film’s plot, Operation Valkyrie was an operational plan to be implemented in the case of Hitler’s death. In the film, it is misappropriated by Stauffenberg, and is his key component, in the coup d’etat he and his co-conspirators launch against Hitler’s inner circle.

  • TVJ

    I saw this film tonight, and I have to agree. Cruise was really good in the film, and despite knowing the outcome of the plot, I was completely swept up in the story telling.

  • “…Gentlemen;

    This is a request for treatment… After trying and failing for two years to regain my equilibrium in civil life, I am utterly unable to approach anything like my own competence. My last physician informed me that it might be very helpful if I were to be examined and perhaps treated psychiatrically or even by a psychoanalyst. Toward the end of my service I avoided out of pride any mental examinations, hoping that time would balance a mind which I had every reason to suppose was seriously affected. I cannot account for nor rise above long periods of moroseness and suicidal inclinations, and have newly come to realize that I must first triumph above this before I can hope to rehabilitate myself at all. I cannot leave school or what little work I am doing for hospitalization due to many obligations, but I feel I might be treated outside, possibly with success. I cannot, myself, afford such treatment. Would you please help me?

    Sincerely, L. Ron Hubbard “

  • Hey, great review. I’ve collected all the Valkyrie movie reviews that I could find.

    Boycott Valkyrie!

  • Randall

    I saw it. I have nothing against Tom Cruise. It was just like watching Jerry MacGuire though. He plays his 1 character well.
    There are plenty of better movies out there. don’t waste your time.

  • Chris

    Never been a Tom Cruise fan BUT this was a very good movie

  • Mark

    Really enjoyed the movie. I’m not a Cruise “fan” but I thought he did a fine job.

    After many hours researching the event, I also found the movie to be surprisingly historically accurate.

    The only criticism I have is that the thing that saved Hitler’s life — an officer moving the briefcase to the opposite side of the table leg — is presented so subtly that few, if anyone, will understand how historically huge that instant in time was.

  • spacepac

    Excellent review, thanks!

    Although, I’m always a bit confused when viewers expect a foreign accent from actors who are, in a film, speaking the native language of the character. The only reason Tom Cruise’s character would speak with a German accent is if he were speaking a language other than German (is that the case?).

  • Spacepac,

    You make a good point. And I think the greater point, however wrongly, by people criticizing this minutest of points is that the rest of the cast has British accents while Cruise does not.

    The truth is had Cruise affected such an accent he would have faced even more criticism, and it would have made even less sense. Go figure!

  • bh

    it was one of the best movies i’ve ever seen, it’s about putting the world on your back

  • lococomocruise

    that’s wright There are plenty of better movies out there. don’t waste your time.

  • luke

    Valkyrie Is an awesome film.
    Tom cruise was astounding. The film was awesome. Most guys critique a film like they are the judges on an oscar ceremony. They should Come down from their pedestal and look at the film for what it truly is. The german people till today feel so guilty of the holocaust, they are still a humbled people. Its affected their psyche Ask the locals.This film plans and should make them feel that not all of Germany was Nazi and Bad. There were good germans. And those within the system who wanted to do good. and save the world of this dreaded word [WAR].The film was well crafted and did give you the ambition of Claus von Stauffenberg [Cruise]. An actor is not supposed to overshadow the character he’s playing. And Tom Cruise did not overshine Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg was himself all thru the film. Nothing got in the way of a smooth narrative. No heavy camera gimmicks, Or editing gimmicks. I was in the film thru and thru. Except when the audience was clapping – when Stauffenberg was getting support. The audience was really participating in the film here in India. Im a film maker who graduated form NYU. Im not some great critic. But to give you an honest opinion. The film was superb.Lets not get into the actor’s personal life and belief systems. He’s out there putting his neck out for us, trying to bring out the truth or at least participating in it.
    Valkyrie Connects thru and thru. If your human and have seen war closely you will know. If your safe with your freedoms and the worlds troubles are far away from your doorstep then, you are not to be blamed. [when i say ‘you’ i Mean the people who trashed the film]. They dont understand that their comments not only hurt a story’s cause but also will demotivate an actor who puts his soul out for us to hear the truth.We dislike the corny smile, but thats what popular cinema does. More people hear the story. I’d rather tell the story and make the world listen to it than create a crafty arty film. Here the story is more important than the art itself.Thanks for reading.

  • dont fuck with cruise

    it was a good movie, i dont see the people complaining goin out and making a masterpiece [personal attack deleted]

  • John McArthur

    I am a soldier who has been to war and left his family behind in the safe confines of the United States. This movie was historically accurate and I was emotionally moved by the circumstances of the COL. The outright danger for himself and his family and his love and fear for his wife and children played out gut wrenchilgly clearly on the screen. Great movie….Cruise did a fine job. A lesson from the past for all our “comfortably critical” citizens.

  • Vio.

    Great movie. the history really catches the real attention and it makes people wonder what the reality was and makes people think about their own intentions in different conflicts and wars. Were we being selfish? were we too afraid to admit our guilts? Was everything really inevitable???