Directed by Bryan Singer.
Written by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander.
Starring Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh and Terence
Release Year: 2008
Review Date: 12/27/08
At the end of the day, "Valkyrie" really
misses the mark in only two major areas--first, it should have been
a 100% German production, and second, the entire cast (not just star
Tom Cruise) is too famous for the individual parts they are playing.
Let me explain. Meg, Dave Bell, Syd,
Cate and I took in "Valkyrie" on Christmas Day, and generally, we
thought the movie, and particularly its plot, is very watchable/interesting
and makes for an engaging movie experience. In our first
scene, we follow our lead, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise),
as he is reading a journal entry in German and during this reading,
he segues from German to English to skip the required subtitles, and
this holds through the entire film. Soon after, we learn how
sick and tired von Stauffenberg is of this whole Nazi
business...tricky, since he IS a Nazi officer. After having
his hand blown off and losing his left eye in an Allied bombing run,
Claus has had enough...so, he joins a movement of other Nazi
officers to take out Mr. Hitler and slip a new government in place,
utilizing a little-known SS officer takeover plan known as "Valkyrie"
to solidify the efforts of this resistance movement. And, one
other thing--someone needs to kill Hitler first.
We know how this is going to end because,
obviously, Hitler assassination plans did not work throughout WWII.
So, the juice is in the details and the execution, and in this
regard, "Valkyrie" is quite good at being one of those important
phone call thrillers, where people walking down halls is dramatic,
people getting off of airplanes is important, people looking over
their shoulder before signing documents is important, and people
picking up a phone to take a call looks important. This work
is very doable for director Bryan Singer, who did much of this so
well in "The Usual Suspects" and--from what I am told--as exec
producer of the TV show "House", he does it quite well there, too.
I liked that "Valkyrie" sticks mainly to the business at hand; there
is not much in the way of commentary, there is essentially no
character development, there is a minor angle with von
Stauffenberg's family, but that is required to tell his part of the
And, the day where the Valkyrie mission goes
down is told in a matter of fact way that I really liked, right down
to its slightly-off-the-beaten-path ending after bombs are planted
and the Valkyrie operation is put into motion. But, here was
where I thought the film went wrong:
You just HAVE to do this movie in spoken
German. Have to! It was actually a distraction to have
this film played out by mainly American and non-German European
actors. Further insult--if you go to the movies a lot (i.e.,
ME), you will howl as Christian Berkel performs as a Nazi
demolitions expert/officer while speaking in English...this guy is
legitimately the most famous German actor in Nazi films of his time.
Berkel is from Berlin and just a couple of months ago, he played a
German officer in
"Miracle at St. Anna", and obviously his German is excellent
since he IS German. Do you think it makes sense to have this
guy reading all of his lines in English??
This leads to the second major problem for "Valkyrie"--it
actually hurts it to have this many famous people be in the movie.
It takes away from the great story by having so many famous faces be
in the movie...this has hurt films forever, most infamously for me
in "The Thin Red Line", but in "Valkyrie", it's just a major
distraction to have not one, not two, but ten famous people in this
movie. Tom Wilkinson in a throwaway part? Kenneth
Branagh in a throwaway part? Bill Nighy in a sidekick role?
Terence Stamp? Thomas Kretschmann? Eddie Izzard?
The dude that played Theoden in the last two "Lord of the Rings"
films? Even the lead actress from
"Black Book" stars as Claus's wife in this movie. This
cast is legitimately full of all-stars, but none of the parts have a
scene that would help them, say, win an Oscar. It's like
having Angelina Jolie play one of the terrorists that dies early on
in a movie like "Die Hard"; you COULD hire her, but isn't that more
of a distraction than a bonus to hire an A-lister who has three
lines and nothing memorable to do?
"Valkyrie" is, truly, average. It is a
fast-moving production that tells a story that you have not seen
before...but, you kind of wish the guys that did the great German
"Downfall" or maybe even the recent
of Others" had done this movie featuring a C-level German cast
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard