Movie Review: Valkyrie (2008)

There was a time, in the not so distant past, when anything Tom Cruise starred in was a bonafide hit. His recent bizarre social etiquette seems to have changed that as 2007’s Lions for Lambs attests to. Deciding to follow that up with the obscure German war thriller Valkyrie surely isn’t the way to go about rectifying the situation.

It is plagued with problems that go deeper than the fact that no one speaks German or has a German accent. You want a historical film to be as real as possible — so surely a film whose primary characters are insiders and confidantes to Hitler would speak the Fà¼hrer’s language, wouldn’t they?

But let’s just pretend that doesn’t affect the film in such a profound way. The biggest letdown is the lack of punch delivered by Valkyrie. Even those that don’t know history very well, should be versed enough to know how Hitler died and therefore know how the movie is going to end. With that in mind, for the film to be effective it needed plenty of suspense, mystery and drama and sadly, there just isn’t nearly enough to overcome. The first half of the movie is spent introducing us to a bevy of characters that I couldn’t remember if I tried (and I did try) and in trying to develop their complex relationships to one another. A great deal of it is lost in translation and ultimately not needed to tell the story.

What was of interest during this hour+ span was the ingenious concept put forth by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) to seize power. For the coop attempt to be successful, von Stauffenberg had to kill Hitler to use Hitler’s own power safeguards against the Reich. On his death, “Operation Valkyrie” would commence, during which the German Reserve Army units would spring into action, secure government locations and arrest all the SS (they’re the patsies being blamed for killing Hitler). The void would leave von Stauffenberg and his coconspirators free to seize the political reigns. This could have been laid out in 20 minutes.

When the operation finally gets going though, the going does get good. Director Bryan Singer pulls out all the tricks in his arsenal, developing a heightened level of desperation and confusion between the conspirators as they try to pull off what may have been the most complex assassination attempt ever undertaken. He gets the biggest bang for his buck from the work of some very powerful cast members. Tom Cruise, who is arguably one of the best actors working today, brings a solemn intensity to von Stauffenberg — unwaveringly driving the scheme from beginning to end. Bill Nighy is convincing as the unsure and nervous General Friedrich Olbricht, the man responsible for giving the order to start Reserve Army deployments if General Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson) doesn’t. Terence Stamp dons the aristocrat hat as retired General Ludwig Beck — proving once again that politicking has no place around time sensitive decision making.

From readings and interviews, special care was taken to ensure the accounts depicted in Valkyrie were as authentic as possible. Of this I have no doubt. More care, however, should have been applied to making the film more than just a historical exercise. Of this I also have no doubt.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm an old, miserable fart set in his ways. Some of the things that bring a smile to my face are (in no particular order): Teenage back acne, the rain on my face, long walks on the beach and redneck women named Francis. Oh yeah, I like to watch and criticize movies.

'Movie Review: Valkyrie (2008)' have 6 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 9, 2009 @ 1:48 pm JerseyMike

    Surprised you gave it 3 piles, it derserved 4 piles at least.

    Save yourself the $9 and watch the History Channel version of “Operation Valkyrie” and you’ll not only come away with more information (background, personal family outcomes, previous Hitler attempts) on the historical events, but you woun’t have to subject yourself to Tom Cruise for a better chunk of your day.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 10, 2009 @ 2:05 pm General Disdain

    Like it or not, Cruise is a damn good actor. I will agree that if you’re looking for more information on “Operation Valkyrie”, a textbook or a History Channel documentary is the better way to go . . .

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 19, 2009 @ 10:13 pm Rick Swift

    I thought the use of each actor’s native accent added a kind of, this could be happen anywhere at anytime feel to the film.

    Also, you gotta love the Jedi allusions, as the Emperor was trying to convince the Republic that the Jedi – read SS – were trying to kill Senator Palp. I wonder if Lucas used some of the historical facts of the Valkyrie plot in tuning up his idea for the fall of the Jedi. Yes, I know I am going to hear about it comparing the SS to the Jedi, but there are direct correlations whether you like it or not.

    And I really liked the non CGI special effects, the movie had a raw reality to it.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 30, 2009 @ 10:17 am Pinky

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching Valkyrie on the big screen and definitely recommend it to those who have not yet seen it.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 30, 2009 @ 11:10 am Ankush

    We’ve seen a lot of world war films in our time right? Face it, the valkyrie is just one of them. Albeit, without the blood and gore of recent wartime movies like “Letters from Iwo Jima”, “John Rambo” etc.. But the story is still same ol’ same ol’… Cruise plays a dashing Nazi official who takes a bombing an the loss of one eye to realize that Hitler needs to be stopped. He attempts to do so with the aid of the higher officials in the Nazi. The heartfelt adieus and tear stricken wives do not actually touch the soul of the viewer because they have only been introduced for 6 minutes in the movie, thus there’s no emotional attachment to any character except Cruise. The final leg of the movie, i suppose, does make it worth the money, but still, i personally expected more from this cliched Cruise thriller..

    Rated : 6.8 on 10

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 7, 2010 @ 1:47 am Geld

    I thoroughly enjoyed watching Valkyrie on the big screen and definitely recommend it to those who have not yet seen it.

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