Old 01-22-2009, 06:23 PM

Valkyrie (2008)

For those of you who were hoping that this film would change history and have Hitler get what's coming to him at the end, then let me be the one to bring you back to reality. No, Hitler doesn't die at the end of "Valkyrie." Does knowing the ending before you see the movie ruin its impact? Maybe a little, but that doesn't mean it can't still be suspenseful.

"Valkyrie" tells the true story of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944. It was led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) and included such high ranking Nazi officials as Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) and General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy).

The plan was relatively simple. Stauffenberg would place a bomb under the table that Hitler used for his briefs. He would then exit the building due to a prearranged phone call. The bomb goes off, supposedly killing Hitler. This is where "Operation Valkyrie" comes in. To make sure that the S.S. didn't get in the way, those involved in the coup would put Operation Valkyrie into effect, which is basically a plan for Hitler's reserve army to take over the government should something happen to Hitler. The coup members would say that the S.S were planning to take control and therefore must be arrested. From there, it would only be a matter of seizing control of Berlin, the powerhouse of the German empire. But what if Hitler wasn't killed in the blast?

There obviously isn't any suspense in this film as to whether or not the operation will fail or succeed. We already know that it fails. Most people know that Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in 1945 when Berlin was surrounded by the Allies. But how many people, besides war historians, know the details of this particular plot to kill Hitler and Operation Valkyrie? Probably not many. Therefore the suspense in this film is not created by if the coup will succeed but rather how the coup fails.

This film gives us several little details about the plot, including who was involved, how they came up with their strategy, and what they wanted to do once Hitler was out of the way. Operation Valkyrie was originally meant as a tool to help stabilize the government and social unrest. Stauffenberg and the others are able to manipulate the plan to their own advantage, but not before taking a huge risk by getting Hitler's own approval of it.

Stauffenberg was one of several men who knew that something had to be done about Hitler. They all saw that his "leadership" was leading the country straight into ruin, so they decided that the best thing to do would be to remove him and try to negotiate a truce with the Allies before Europe was lead to destruction. They risked everything; their lives, the lives of their friends, and their families, but they were willing to take that risk in order to do something that needed to be done. It wasn't really a matter of "is this murder justified?," it was more a matter of "how do we stop this madman?"

Some critics have complained that almost none of the actors in this film use a German accent. But it seems reasonable that, if the actors did use German accents, then the critics would probably be complaining about how bad those are. So, rather than have the actors use distracting accents, it was a good move to not have most of them use one at all.

Bryan Singer direction was perfect for this type of film. We already know he has the ability to set up large-scale actions scenes from his other films like "X-Men," "X-Men 2," and the highly disappointing "Superman Returns." But then we also remember his roots in subtle films like "The Usual Suspects," where the camera is more of an observer who is very close to the principal characters involved. We see the planning and execution of the coup because we are there and Singer knows right where to put us to get us involved in the plan.

Tom Cruise does a surprisingly good job as Stauffenberg. He plays it like he's a man on a mission, willing to stop at nothing to accomplish his objective. The supporting cast includes the always great Kenneth Branagh and Tom Wilkinson. Both of them turn in great performances, but it would have been nice to see more of Branagh's character. He is sent away to the front early on in the film and is not seen again until the end. Wilkinson's character is the head of the reserve army and is just one of many obstacles that must be overcome.

So, even if you know the ending, it is fascinating to watch how something that looks like it's going to succeed can come crashing down. Unfortunately, sometimes evil does triumph, but not for long. The coup occurred shortly after the D-day invasion of June 6, 1944. In less than a year, the war in Europe would be over. 3/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-22-2009 at 06:30 PM..
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump