Thursday, January 1, 2009

Rick's Movie Review

Valkyrie: Tom Cruise Does Things Reich

Valkyrie has been plagued by controversy from the offset. The picture's release was delayed many times--not a good sign. Tom Cruise's generally loony behavior did not help. However, were people judging a film based on the star's off-screen antics rather than his on-screen performance? I have always been of the mind that what one should judge is what is on the screen itself. Now we can decide whether Valkyrie, the film, is worth watching. My view is yes.

This is based on the true story of a conspiracy to assassinate Adolph Hitler by a group of army officers a year before Germany's defeat. This plot was headed by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Cruise, who plants a bomb next to Hitler in The Wolf's Lair, his Eastern Front headquarters. The film goes through all the planning and execution (no pun intended) of the plot, and of what happens after the attempt was made.

Since people know HOW it ends (at least one hopes people know) the real drama comes from A.) seeing how the plot was built up, and B.) how it went wrong. My brother Gabe (history major) found it fascinating. I found it...competent: neither a disaster or a masterpiece. The directing was adequate, the story remarkably historically accurate, the look evocative of Nazi Germany, and the acting acceptable (only David Bamber, playing Hitler, was weak to me. The actor playing Hitler for a second in Citizen Kane was more believable).

As for Tom Cruise, I did not find his lack of a German accent to be an issue. It's called Suspension of Disbelief: if we accept he's playing a German, we don't HAVE to hear an accent. It would have been distracting if he HAD an accent.

It isn't perfect (much like the real-life events). The first third is a bit slow, and in spite of its two-hour length you get only a vague idea of who the conspirators are and what motivates them. I got no insight into von Stauffenberg's beliefs, character or exactly how he joined the plot. Still, it told its story well enough, though not brilliantly. In short, the film will never be a great film, but it is a good one. It's an interesting story that will hopefully lead people to want to learn more about World War II. However, it will be a second-tier WWII film, never ranking with real-event war film masterpieces like The Great Escape, Downfall, or Bridge on the River Kwai.


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