Plot: VALKYRIE is the true story of Col. Claus Von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) who, along with several other high ranking members of the German Army, hatched an ultimately unsuccessful plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Review: Being a major WW2 buff, I absolutely loved this film. Director Bryan Singer rebounds nicely from SUPERMAN RETURNS with this stripped down thriller that calls to mind his earlier work like THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and APT PUPIL. Sadly, I dont think people are going to give the film a fair shake due to the presence of Tom Cruise in the lead.
I can understand why people hate Cruise. I couldnt care less about the whole Katie Holmes affair, as I believe someones personal life is their business, but when he started shooting his mouth off about Scientology and claiming that Psychiatry was a quack science, I lost a whole lot of respect for the man. The funny thing is, except LIONS FOR LAMBS, he never really stopped making good films. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III was a great action film, and he absolutely killed in his TROPIC THUNDER cameo. Still, many people have a hard time separating Cruise the actor from Cruise the man, and his off-screen antics have alienated a lot of his audience, which is a shame as this film deserves to be a success.
When I heard he was being cast as Stauffenberg, I knew that Cruise would probably be able to deliver, and sure enough, hes very good in it. Many have criticized his American accent, but Im glad that no one in the film attempts a German one, as I think a bunch of phony accents would have been distracting. Once Cruise slips into Stauffenbergs eye patch, I completely bought him in the role. No one plays noble and heroic like Cruise, and this role fits in nicely with his earlier work in films like THE LAST SAMURAI, and the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE series.
The rest of the cast is uniformly excellent, which should not come as a surprise as it boasts some of the best British actors in the biz- including Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, and Tom Wilkinson. To a man, they all do great work, especially Branagh, who hasnt had a role this good in a long time.
Tying everything together is the excellent script by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander. Its nice to see McQuarrie reteam with Singer, as they truly seem to bring out the best in each other. The script is thoughtful, and literate, and wisely doesnt play fast and loose with the facts surrounding the assassination attempt.
Director Bryan Singer does a great job behind the camera, and its nice to see him doing a thriller again, as no one crafts a twisty one like he does. He also doesnt get too bogged down in action scenes. Theres a brief battle at the beginning, but other than that its mostly men talking in rooms, and its a testament to his skill as a director that this is never boring. My only criticism of the film is the relationship between Stauffenberg and his wife, whos played by the beautiful Carice van Houten, who starred in another WW2 epic, BLACK BOOK (although sadly, she stays fully clothed in this one). Shes given too little screen time to make a big impression, I never really felt like she had strong chemistry with Cruise. I also though the scene where Stauffenberg comes up with the idea for VALKYRIE while listening to Wagner (Ride of the Valkyries- natch), was a little much, but thats a fairly minor quibble.
I was also very impressed by John Ottmans work as both editor and composer. The film is extremely well cut, with it coming in at almost exactly two hours, which is long enough to let us get involved in the story, but also ensures that film does not overstay its welcome. His soundtrack is also excellent, reminiscent at times of Bernard Hermanns work with Hitchcock.
Overall, I really liked this film, and I hope that people check it out in the admittedly crowded holiday season. If youre a history buff, or just like a good, entertaining thriller, VALKYRIE really cant be beat. Heres hoping Singer sticks to films like this, and takes a break from superhero sagas (although I would still like to see him direct another X-MEN film).
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