Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, Christian Berkel, David Bamber
Running Time: 120 minutes
Score: 7 / 10
This review by James Meeley.
One of the tricky things about doing films based on a true moment of history, is that, oftentimes, the actual events are not nearly as interesting as the film will portray it. This will lead to a "Hollywood-ification" of history, which can hurt the believability of the film. It is only made more difficult, when you use a moment that is also very well known, such as this plot by the Germany army to kill Hitler, and in which knowing the outcome can cost you much dramatic tension. Fortunately, director Bryan Singer doesn't take many liberties with the actual history of events and produces a film that, while not perfect, is very much entertaining and somewhat moving.
First off, the look of the film is flawless. The cinematography, with its wide-angle shots and sweeping overviews of the landscape and architecture, truly captured the times in which this event took place. It really felt like 1940's Germany, under the Nazi Reich. It is, quite easily, the strongest point of the film.
The performances range a bit from adequate to very good. Tom Cruise's take on Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is more the former. It isn't bad and he certainly plays up how Stauffenberg put his love of his country above everything else, but I never really got a very good impression of why he felt this way. There was no sense of depth to the character, which one would think would be key to such an important figure of this historical moment. The fact we saw little of Stauffenberg's interaction with his family also played a part in lessening the impact of his great gamble.
Fortunately, some of the others who support Cruise help to raise the film (and his performance) from being totally lackluster. Tom Wilkinson as General Friedrich Fromm, was certainly one of the standout performances. He played the character with a true sense of duplicity and cunning guile. The way he straddles the fence on the plot to killer Hitler, is very much in keeping with how many of the high ranking Nazis seemed to navigate the political schemes within the Third Reich. Also of note, is Christian Berkel as Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim and Terence Stamp as Ludwig Beck. Both of whom turn in excellent supporting roles and have key moments of tension within the story. And while David Bamber has very few scenes in the film, he is very effective in conveying the side of Adolf Hitler that was never shown very much to the cameras of the times.
In the end, "Valkyrie" is good, but falls a bit short of the truly epic scope it wants to have. This film will become a standard for high school history teachers, when they study WWII in class, as well as being a solid entry into the war movie genre. However, there are too many little things, like almost no one speaking actual German (or even using an accent like one), or the mediocre score that lacks any memorable feeling of emotion, which keep the film out of the realm of a truly great cinema experience. Still, it is a good film, which is fairly historically accurate with the events it depicts, has some wonderful cinematography, and has an excellent cast with some standout supporting performances.
It is no "Schindler's List" or "Saving Private Ryan," but it is an entertaining look at some of the events of WWII from within the Nazi Reich, from the view of those who were involved with the atrocities that were being committed in the name of Germany. While certainly not an uplifting film (especially if you know the outcome of the plot), it is still one that is worth seeing.