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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.