“Tom Cruise gives one of the best performances of his career” (Jeffrey Lyons, NBC/Reel Talk) in this action-packed film from the director of The Usual Suspects and X-Men. Based on the incredible true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) and his ingenious assassination plot targeting Adolph Hitler, this engrossing thriller reenacts the daring operation to eliminate one of the most evil tyrants the world has ever known. Co-starring Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp and Eddie Izzard, VALKYRIE delivers gripping suspense and pulse-pounding excitement from start to finish!
The Fuhrer's promises of peace and prosperity have fallen by the wayside leaving in their wake a path of destruction. The outrages committed by Hitler's SS are a stain on the honor of the German Army. There is widespread disgust in the officer corps toward the crimes committed by the Nazis, the murder of civilians, the torture and starvation of prisoners, the mass execution of Jews. My duty as an officer is no longer to save my country, but to save human lives. I cannot find one general in a position to confront Hitler with the courage to do it - Col. Claus von Stauffenberg
Tom Cruise on the whole is a reliable and almost box-office guarantee superstar. But critics and audience alike always had an axe to grind with the boyish looking actor perhaps it’s his Scientology belief or his couch jumping antic or larger-than-life celebrity persona that gave him the bad vibe.
Bryan Singer on the other hand is a favourite among fans and critics, most notably his breakthrough directorial effort, The Usual Suspects and his record-breaking X-men series that propels him into the hot seat.
When these two powerhouses combined to make Valkyrie, I’m sure it makes a hell lot of people stood up. Some had their axe sharpen while others anticipate in excitement what kind of chemistry can these two guys conjure.
Valkyrie has a plot that even a student who scored a F9 in history can follow without getting befuddled. Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a loyal soldier who rather follow his conscious than military orders to attack Europe under the evil Adolf Hitler. Assembling a bunch of like-minded men including high-ranking Colonels and Generals played by Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard and Terence Stamp, the group intends to assassinate Hitler at the headquarter and seize control of the army and end the long-suffering war.
So here comes the million dollar question: how do you concoct a story where the ending is revealed six decades ago? Bryan Singer and scriptwriter Christopher McQuarrie deserved much credits for not over sensationalized the whole event relying more on the intensity and the performances of his ensemble cast. Of course in doing so, the story lacks the vibrancy of a typical action thriller with the exception of the opening sequence which practically consumed most of the budget for the entire movie.
The entire assassination process is coordinated tautly keeping you in suspense. Did Stauffenberg actually manage to kill off Hitler as he marches out of the wolf lair? Though we all knew the answer by the back of our head, Singer the reliable craftsman keeps us glue to the screen. Unfortunately as the story stretches without much fanfare after the second act, certain moments turned out to be quite a drag to sit through. I am not particularly sure if Singer adheres faithfully to historical records but right here he is trying to imply the failure of Operation Valkyrie lies in the final execution. Hesitation, unsure and doubt killed an otherwise near-perfect operation. A lesson to be learnt I supposed.
To sum it up, Valkyrie is a movie that has slick production values and a cast which sincerely put in their best performances to date. Forget about all those nit-picking about the non-existent of German accents, it doesn’t really affect the movie on the whole. It’s a well-craft WWII thriller that deserved at least a single viewing despite the slow moments.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
There are two commentary tracks here. The first one with Tom Cruise, director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie and the second features McQuarrie with co-writer Nathan Alexander. Cruise and Singer are both competent speakers and the three rattle on about almost every aspects of the production. Definitely one that shouldn't be missed. If this is insufficient to satisfy your curiosity, the second track with the writers focused more on how the script came about.
The Journey to Valkyrie lasts 16 minutes and traces how the writers first stumble on the story, how superstar Cruise gets to know about the project and how emotional the cast & crew was during the filming of the movie’s last act.
The Valkyrie Legacy is one fantastic 45 minutes documentary that tells the tale of Operation Valkyrie and feature insightful interviews with the children of Stauffenberg and some of the conspirators and historians.
Although I’m not a fan of John Ottman’s score, his music shines through in addition to the planes flying overhead in the audio department. The action sequence in the beginning is very well-done pity there’s minimal chance for the Dolby Digital 5.1 to leave a lasting impression except for the above mentioned. The video transfer is excellent with brilliant detailed colours of red and black.
by Linus Tee
Posted on 4 June 2009