And how brave of Cruise to portray a disfigured Nazi hunter who, after his mission fails, dies like a martyr at the bullet of former associates. And how brave of Bryan Singer to tackle a WWII-set thriller-epic (about the attempt on the life of one of history’s most evil men, no less) to prove his worth to critics after spending the last decade solely on superhero movies. If the cast and crew make it easy on themselves here (and they do), at least their historic/big screen counterparts put on a show.
The plot, which remained widely unknown until United Artists backed the production, was to be carried out on July 20th, 1944. The goals: take Berlin, assassinate the Führer, and negotiate a truce with the Allies.
Valkyrie, despite what I may have suggested in the earlier paragraphs, offers many thrills and is, after its two hours exhaust themselves, a fine attempt at bringing an important event in history to audiences’ attention. It’s not intended to shed any new light on Hitler (portrayed with a stony presence--because how else do you do it?--by David Bamber)--he will always be a monster--but to put a light on forgotten “heroes.”
Quotes seem--if not necessary--suitable. That’s how the conspirators of the coup are portrayed here: not as treasonous rats, but as determined patriots, tired of Hitler putting a bad face on their sacred Germany. Yes, Hitler Bad, Resistance Good, but can’t we make up our own minds on what makes a hero?
Among the plotters are: Major General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), whose attempt to explode the Führer’s plane are thwarted due to a faulty detonator; General Friedrich Ulbricht (Bill Nighy), who brings Stauffenberg onboard; General Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson), the only conflicted of the bunch; and General Erich Fallible (Eddie Izzard, not terribly funny here…), brought in to sever communication lines at the Wolf’s Lair.
All of the men give strong, sympathetic (almost to a fault--see above) performances, donning the Nazi garb less as costumes than as uniforms. And it’s because of them (and not as much Bryan Singer or writers Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander) that the film, despite our knowing the outcome of Operation Valkyrie, is often tight and tense.
Commentaries: The first with Tom Cruise, Director/Producer Bryan Singer, and Co-Writer/Producer Christopher McQuarrie, and the second with McQuarrie and Co-Writer Nathan Alexander both rely on chemistry throughout their runtimes and are merely adequate. You’ll get more from the following features:
The Journey to Valkyrie (HD; 15:56) gathers various cast and crew members to discuss how they came onboard the project and to give an overview of Valkyrie from script to screen. On-set footage is included.
The Road to Resistance (HD; 9:08): Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s grandson, Philipp von Schulthess (who was seen in the previous featurette), serves up a biography while taking viewers on a personal tour of numerous locations important to his grandfather’s life.
The African Front Sequence (HD; 7:01) takes a look at the filming of the opening sequence, where von Stauffenberg is wounded after an air attack.
Taking to the Air (HD; 7:32) is a neat addition that look at the various airplanes used throughout the film, made all the better by comments from coordinators and on-set footage of the cast/crew’s excitement during test runs.
Recreating Berlin (HD; 6:51) offers a brief look at the production design of Berlin.
Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer (SD; 38:56): This episode, filmed at New York City’s 92nd Street Y center, sits the star down with his director to discuss Valkyrie and the history behind it. It runs a bit long, but there is a lot of great information thrown about.
The Valkyrie Legacy (HD; 1:54:15): This Kevin Burns-directed (Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed) documentary is as comprehensive as history buffs would want it and is unquestionably the best addition to the disc. Interviewees include experts, July 20th 1944 plot conspirators, and more. A terrific companion piece that outshines the film.
The sole extra here is the Digital Copy.
The bonus material (sans the commentaries) are all worthwhile for fans, who should have no reason to skip this Blu-ray, which also boasts very good transfers.