You did not bear the shame
By sacrificing your impassioned lives,
For freedom, justice and honor
Throughout history, the world has bred evil men who oppressed the virtuous heroes. And oppression by those evil doers was not only inflicted on the enemy, but on one’s own people. These heroes were not necessarily labeled as such because they saved many people, but because they took action when no one else would. Or could. The acts, and sacrifice by those few have not been forgotten. One such individual, Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, is the subject of Bryan Singer’s riveting VALKYRIE.
Based in part on Richard Wagner’s opera, Die Walkerie, Singer’s film features Tom Cruise in the pivotal role of von Stauffenberg, who did not believe in Hilter’s war. The movie opens on von Stauffenberg’s campaign in Tunisia, where his command is attacked, leaving him severely wounded. It is from here that he returns to Berlin, working with several other high ranking party officials to formulate a plan to assassinate Hitler. Based on true events, Operation Valkyrie was the last attempt before Hitler committed suicide, ending the European portion of World War II.
Based on a screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, VALKYRIE felt very formulaic. Cruise delivered a very convincing performance as someone who is on the edge of losing control. Nighy as General Friedrich Olbricht was extremely convincing, but appeared to crumble under Cruise’s weight. Terence Stamp delivers an effective performance, in his usual low-key manner while Tom Wilkinson held his ground against Cruise. Unfortunately, as good as Kenneth Branagh looks on screen, he was underutilized in the grand sense of the story. His importance is implied, but it is ineffective.
Singer is a strong enough director to guide Cruise through the story and it shows here. The creative team behind Singer effectively conveys the sense of scale. Bernhard Henrich’s set decoration displayed the style and equipment in use at the time. Lilly Kilvert and Patrick Lumb’s production design is top notch.
From Tom Cruise’s injuries in the Tunisian desert to Hitler’s mountain hideaway to the military headquarters in Berlin, Richard Hoover’s team along with Sony Picture’s Imageworks really delivered the special effects in spades. And, this is the movie’s strength shaping the true scale of the movie.
John Ottman, who served as the movie’s executive producer, also served as editor. He has a good eye for action and knows when to cut, but this is one area where there are some missed opportunities to shore up the length. Ottman performed triple duty with the score. Here is where his true talent lies, bringing a welcome emotional context.
Singer’s VALKYRIE is a technical feat, but the performances and pacing drag what could have been a defining cinematic moment. It is Recommended.
For those interested in similar style movies, Sean Ellis’s ANTHROPOID (currently playing in theaters) is a vastly superior movie.
View the trailer here
Valkyrie is playing this month on STARZ Encore and is available on Blu-ray, DVD and through major digital E-tailers.