Written by General Jabbo
During his time in power during World War II, there were numerous failed attempts to take Adolf Hitler’s life. Among the most notable was Operation Valkyrie, led by German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the events of which are documented in the film Valkyrie.
Directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns, The Usual Suspects), Valkyrie stars Tom Cruise as Stauffenberg. The film starts out in German with subtitles, before morphing into English. The majority of the soldiers speak with a British, rather than German accent. For his part, Cruise speaks in his normal voice. While this caused some controversy, Singer was more concerned with the performances of his actors, and they delivered.
History tells us this assassination attempt, like all the others, failed, yet Valkyrie manages to be suspenseful. It’s easy to feel the tension running through the characters while wondering how or why they’d eventually fail. The movie begins with Stauffenberg stationed in northern Africa, where he was severely injured in an Allied attack, losing his right hand, two fingers from his left hand, and one of his eyes. Stauffenberg wants to avoid any further destruction of Germany and disapproves of Hitler’s methods so strongly he wants him dead, even if he has to do it himself.
After a failed attempt by Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) to kill Hitler via an explosive set in a whiskey bottle on an airplane, the conspirators recruit Stauffenberg to take over their mission. While at a secret meeting, Stauffenberg meets his fellow conspirators, including Dr Goerdeler (Kevin McNally) — the man who’d become chancellor of Germany if the plan worked and General Beck (Terrence Stamp), who’d be in charge of the military.
With Tresckow now assigned to the frontlines, Stauffenberg takes over the operation and suggests they implement Operation Valkyrie, a safeguard Hitler had put in place where the SS would take over should he be assassinated. Stauffenberg rewrites Valkyrie to exclude the SS and instead give power to the reserve army. As he is now General Fromm’s (Tom Wilkinson) chief of staff, Hitler trusts him. Hitler notices his injuries and declares Stauffenberg the ideal German soldier, signing the document without reading it, as he was sure the changes were adequate. David Bamber plays a creepy, if paranoid Hitler in the film.
The idea behind Operation Valkyrie was to plant a bomb in a strategy meeting, killing Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and the rest of Hitler’s inner circle. After confirmation of Hitler’s death, Valkyrie would go into effect and the SS and Nazis would be arrested and Germany would negotiate a cease-fire with the Allies. While we know this plot eventually failed, the film still does a good job in making the viewer believe that it just might work.
The DVD includes a number of bonus features, including commentary by Cruise, Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie; another commentary by McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander; “The Journey to Valkyrie;” and “The ‘Valkyrie’ Legacy,” a documentary of the event with archival footage.
Tom Cruise delivers an excellent performance, free of the over acting he is typically accused of. Valkyrie is a fine document of an important event in world history and worth a look.