"Valkyrie" offers little suspense, no context

by Eric Melin on December 25, 2008

in Print Reviews

The Holocaust took a horrific human toll in both casualties and emotional scars that will last forever. Two movies coming out this Oscar season (and a third—“Defiance”—next month) are haunted by the spectre of this shameful event, although each takes a very different approach.

valkyrie cruise german nazi“Valkyrie” recounts the true story of two attempts by German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler during World War II, specifically the plots headed by Claus von Stauffenberg. One of the biggest problems of “Valkyrie” is that there is hardly a whiff of German culture to be found. First weirdness: American-accented Tom Cruise plays a man named von Stauffenberg. Second weirdness: British actors Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, and Terence Stamp, who play other Germans, all have European accents. The notion that Cruise and his fellow officers are against Hitler isn’t hard to swallow, but a little bit of perspective and character would have been nice.

Instead, director Bryan Singer (“X-Men,” ”The Usual Suspects”) approaches this sensitive material as a strict procedural. It’s almost as if we are joining part two of a miniseries already in progress: “After the attack on Poland in 1939 offended his conscience and his deeply held religious convictions, and the 1941 Russian invasion produced hideous mass executions, von Stauffenberg’s resistance against Hitler becomes a pact with others who also believe the Führer is seriously deficient in military leadership.” Of course, I learned that online and not from the movie.

cruise valkyrie german naziWorld War II and its moral ambiguities are merely the backdrop for an inconsistent suspense plot about the planning and implementation of these unsuccessful attempts. It is interesting to learn about the German Resistance, but “Valkyrie” offers nothing in the way of context; nothing more than a History Channel documentary or an “Unsolved Mysteries” re-enactment might offer. There are no political or ideological distinctions between these men other than to what degree they are willing to risk their own lives to overthrow Hitler. Although Singer does manage to pull off a couple pretty tense situations, “Valkyrie” is a pretty stiff and unemotional affair.

Click here to read Part Two, a review of “The Reader.”

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers.com and writes the Screen Stealers column for The Pitch. He’s President of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kenny December 27, 2008 at 1:04 am

It certainly wasn’t a great movie, but Valkyrie is still a movie people should see. The biggest reason why I enjoyed it was that it seemed very straight to the point. Agreeing with you, that’s the reason why I didn’t like it either. I would’ve liked it more if it elaborated on the motives and the background much more, but the director opted to clearly focus more on the brevity of plot. Yet, it seemed because of the lack of time the characters had in their situation we were also not allowed to venture too far into the personal dilemmas of each character. I am a Tom Cruise supporter despite his much-maligned persona. His American accent had no effect on the value of this movie, I’ve come to accept that the ideas of accuracy and story are usually at odds with each other. I would like to see no German dialogue and no European accents or all the language in German. I find it very tacky when they mix English with some German (one of my futile film pet peeves). This movie should really be a three-hour long war epic and have allowed each actor to embellish everything to the fullest, but I would give this film a minor rock fist up.

Reply

2 Kenny December 27, 2008 at 1:04 am

It certainly wasn’t a great movie, but Valkyrie is still a movie people should see. The biggest reason why I enjoyed it was that it seemed very straight to the point. Agreeing with you, that’s the reason why I didn’t like it either. I would’ve liked it more if it elaborated on the motives and the background much more, but the director opted to clearly focus more on the brevity of plot. Yet, it seemed because of the lack of time the characters had in their situation we were also not allowed to venture too far into the personal dilemmas of each character. I am a Tom Cruise supporter despite his much-maligned persona. His American accent had no effect on the value of this movie, I’ve come to accept that the ideas of accuracy and story are usually at odds with each other. I would like to see no German dialogue and no European accents or all the language in German. I find it very tacky when they mix English with some German (one of my futile film pet peeves). This movie should really be a three-hour long war epic and have allowed each actor to embellish everything to the fullest, but I would give this film a minor rock fist up.

Reply

3 Clark March 2, 2009 at 9:10 am

I completely agree with you, Eric. Valkyrie is a bad and unremarkable movie. Here in Brazil, it is a big hit, I don’t know why (maybe it’s because Tom Cruise himself was here last month promoting it).

Reply

4 Clark March 2, 2009 at 9:10 am

I completely agree with you, Eric. Valkyrie is a bad and unremarkable movie. Here in Brazil, it is a big hit, I don’t know why (maybe it’s because Tom Cruise himself was here last month promoting it).

Reply

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