Directed by: Bryan Singer
Premise: A dramatization of the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise).
What Works: Valkyrie is a very good adaptation of history. The film is able to place the characters in their historical context and find ways of dramatizing the events in ways that preserve the integrity while also telling the story very effectively. Valkyrie is excellently paced, moving along briskly as a thriller should, and for a moment when it appears that the plan might work, the picture gives a glimmer of hope that comes crashing down in the film’s climax, allowing the picture a great emotional arc. What is most impressive about Valkyrie is the way the film deals with expository information. The film makes it clear that killing Hitler would have to be part of a much broader plan to retake and de-Nazify Germany and it establishes the processes and plan for that day and explains why all the steps need to take place in order to secure the coup. This makes the third act of the story so exciting and makes the events easy to understand and allow the viewer to focus on the action without spending as much energy trying to figure out exactly what is going on.
What Doesn’t: Although his acting is not bad, Tom Cruise misses the mark in his approach to Colonel Stauffenberg. The part requires a deeper performance than Cruise provides here, something more like his roles in The Last Samurai or Born on the Fourth of July. Valkyrie also suffers from not putting enough focus on the plight of Germany and of Europe. The film misses the opportunity to show the cost of the ongoing war in loss of human life and other devastation, which would ratchet up the tension.
Bottom Line: Valkyrie is a very good historical thriller. It does not break much new ground and it does not reach the heights of Downfall or Hitler: The Rise of Evil although it might make an interesting companion piece to those films. Valkyrie is worth a screening even if it might be better viewed on home video.
Episode: #221 (January 4, 2009)