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Review

‘Valkyrie’ intrigues audience with journey rather than destination

José Cruz Jr.

March 5, 2009

Hollywood seems to be obsessed with making films about World War II.  From the propaganda “Why We Fight” documentaries to the upcoming “Inglorious Bastards,” the Second World War scenarios have been continuously used and exhausted. But what is even more apparent is our strange fascination with Adolf Hitler, whether we like to admit or not. Many movies have been made specifically focusing on the man himself, with a ‘Hitler vs. the Allies’ element at work. But “Valkyrie” showcases an attempt to dethrone Hitler by his own high-ranking officials.

While stationed in Tunisia, Colonel Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is injured during an air raid, which includes losing a hand and his left eye.  Meanwhile, General Tresckow (the always prestigious Kenneth Branagh) deals with a botched attempt at Hitler’s life involving a bomb hidden in a bottle of booze. Upon hearing of a key officer being arrested for involvement, Tresckow consults with General Olbricht (Bill Nighy) in getting a replacement. After recovering in Nazi Germany, Stauffenberg is recruited to partake in assassinating Hitler, overthrowing the S.S. and restoring the previous order. To achieve the third phase, they must initiate Operation Valkyrie, which gives them power to execute the first and second phases without military retaliation. However, a crucial component of the plan fails, leaving Hitler unscathed and Germany thinking the Fuehrer is dead.

Like “Titanic” and the “Star Wars” prequels, we all know what transpires. For all of you non-history majors (I had to look up the actual dates myself), Operation Valkyrie was initiated in July of 1944, and Hitler died little under a year later. The film’s conclusion is already predetermined, and presumably leaves a lot of people not wanting to waste the $9.25 (or less, if you are lucky). However, director Bryan Singer has crafted several key intense and suspenseful scenes to keep you hooked.

In a film that is based on history, a few questions arise. How much of it really happened? What parts and/or elements are embellished? From what I understand, it does pretty well in the historically accurate department. But the movie is not too heavy into character development, as we are given little background or personal details on Colonel Stauffenberg. Well, except for one scene, as he briefly returns home to his silent, bland wife and watches his kids dress up like soldiers as he forces a smile on his face. 

Yes, I am a Tom Cruise hater. I’ve always found his acting to be a bit goofy and contrived, but still managed to get through a few of his films. And as anticipated, he is the weakest link in “Valkyrie,” as far as performances go. Surrounded by well-known English thespians such as Branagh, Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, Cruise appears out of his league. But on the other hand, the Stauffenberg character is a colonel with an eye-patch, so how big can his emotional range really be?

At times, “Valkyrie” is truly intense, despite the fact that we know the outcome already.  It works on the principal that it is the journey that intrigues us, not the result. But it lacks character development, and some scenes tend to drag on without any payoff. 

2.5 stars out of 5

José Cruz Jr. is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

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