Valkyrie (2008)

Valkyrie is the story of the – in the end unsuccessful – coup Stauffenberg staged in WW II to get rid of Hitler. It stars Tom Cruise and a legion of talented supporting actors and it’s directed by Bryan Singer.

Plot:
Stauffenberg doubts the war Hitler is waging on the world. After he is wounded during a bombing in Africa, he is contacted by the German resistance. Together they develop a plan to overthrow Hitler. And if the plan doesn’t succeed, at least, to show the world that not everybody in Germany simply followed along.

This film had to take a lot of crap, even before it had even started or was done shooting. Casting Tom Cruise was an unpopular choice, the wild mix of accents was criticised etc etc.
Plus the marketing in Austria and Germany still claimed Stauffenberg as the unknown hero of WW II, which might be true in the US, but definitely isn’t here.
Therefore, I went into this film with mixed feelings and rather low expectations. Fortunately, I should have trusted Bryan Singer. Because he is damn good.

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Even though we all knew the ending to Valkyrie, Bryan Singer makes you excited and anxious to see what happens next. The suspense is subtle, but strong as the story takes its time to unfold but is at the same time tightly paced.

Of course, this is not only due to Singer’s talent, but also to the strong supporting cast he has assembled: Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, but also some German actors, who aren’t bad – Christian Berkel, Thomas Kretschmann, Wotan Wilke Möhring, Matthias Schweighöfer. Of course, having that many actors limits the screen time of everyone, but it was a feast to watch nevertheless.

But let’s not leave out Tom Cruise. Think what you will about his personal life and about his movie choices – fact is that he can act if he wants to. And he did in Valkyrie. In the middle of the brilliant supporting cast, he could hold his own.

valkyrie4Yes, that’s Eddie Izzard. If I hadn’t known he was in this movie, I wouldn’t have recognised him.

The script was good, weaving in original quotes unobtrusively and keeping us on the edge of the seat all the time. [Just the scene with Kenneth Branagh in the beginnign: You know he’s not going to succeed in killing Hitler. Otherwise the movie would be really short and history quite different. And still, you’re as anxious as he is to hear the results.

Singer’s directing is confident, but unfortunately sometimes, it gets a little over the top (the Walküre record, anyone?). But it’s never too bad to really suck.

What I do have to give the early critics is the different accents thing. While I wasn’t bothered that Cruise kept his American accent, while most of the supporting cast was British (and talked British), I was a bit thrown off by the German accents now and then.

I mean, it’s very sweet that they included German actors at all and stuff, and some have better accents than others, but why give Hitler a German accent when he’s played by a British guy (David Bamber)?

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But that’s just a minor thing. Summarising, I’d say that Valkyrie is a very well acted and well crafted suspense movie. But if you expect something along the lines of Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan, you’d be thoroughly disappointed.

7 thoughts on “Valkyrie (2008)

  1. I loved this movie. You’re right about Cruise – he can hold his own pretty well. This is the guy who played T.J. Mackey in Magnolia!. It’s hypocritical of critics to lament the celebrity culture surrounding movies, but then use the same celebrity culture as a point of bias while reviewing films. Tom Cruise was great. Period. Why is it so hard for people to admit?

  2. Exactly. Good point about the celebrity culture.

    I don’t know. Maybe because people don’t want to admit that people, who they don’t like personally, can actually be good at what they do for a living. Doesn’t fit the black and white world people create for themselves.

    [No, I’m not bitter.]

  3. Good to hear. That brings the number of total acting performances of Tom Cruise’s career to FIVE(according to my personal count). I’d love to have seen all the good films he could have made.

    I still won’t see this one. No more Nazi-films for me.

  4. Five acting performances? Hang on… Valkyrie, Magnolia, Tropic Thunder, uhm… probably Rain Man? How did you get to five?

    I don’t know… I don’t have a general no Nazi-films rule. If it’s a good movie, I want to see it. :)

  5. The four you mentioned are on my list. And I’m willing to give him credit for “A Few Good Men” (not the Outacting-Demi-Moore-part, that’s waaaay too easy, but the Not-Getting-Blown-Off-Screen-By-Jack-Nicholson-part).

  6. Only five? Lemme count:
    1. Born on the Fourth of July
    2. Magnolia
    3. Collateral
    4. The Color of Money
    5. Minority Report
    6. Valkyrie
    7. Lions for Lambs
    ..

    There should be more. He did a good job in War of the Worlds, dint he?

  7. @deadra:
    A Few Good Men… yeah, you’re right. Not getting completely lost next to Jack Nicholson is a pretty big achievement.

    @baph:
    Haven’t seen half of these films, so I can’t really say. But War of the Worlds? This film sucked so much, that his performance was lost in all that crappiness.

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