Valkyrie (2008) – Movie Review

Valkyrie movie poster

Written by: Nathan Alexander & Christopher McQuarrie
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Starring: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp

My Advice: Matinee.

It’s 1943 and let’s just say that not everybody in Germany is 100% behind the Fuhrer (a respectable David Bamber who is not as convincing as Bruno Ganz–but really, who would be?). In fact, there are those who are planning behind closed doors to take out Hitler and try to wake Germany up from its nightmare. One of them is Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), who has been trying to find a general who will get involved with this treason. After being wounded in Africa (this is sort of already covered in the trailer), he finds himself back in Berlin and in the sights of a movement aligned with his own idea: that Hitler has to be stopped for the sake of Germany.

The problem with this film even more than most historical films is that–again, no spoilers here–the characters fail. We know going into the film that they fail. The only people who are going to be in suspense over this fact are probably products of the same sort of school system I came out of. The films in this vein that work are the ones who can make you care, even though you know the struggle is futile. And in this case, it’s the fact that you want these people to succeed against the great evil that was Hitler–and that wanting drives the interest in the film. And the film also gets points for keeping the characters human. Not everybody was in this For the Good of Germany. Some just wanted to anticipate what the winners’ side was and get on it. Some were making power plays. The moral ambiguity of the people involved makes it all the more real.

The much maligned Cruise carries himself well in the film. Granted, some people will give him shit, no doubt, for not having a German accent or not matching his accent with his mostly Brit cast. But I figure when you use a variation of the same language transition effect that let Connery get away with being Russian in Hunt for Red October, you can play fast and loose with the accents. And let me put it to you another way: I was never bored enough to start picking at that particular nit. The film was just too taut for that. Anyway, back to Cruise: I’ve always liked Cruise when he’s acting. Leave his wacky personal life out of it: on screen, I think he is solid. I believe him when he talks about the stakes of what’s going on and I believe him when he starts putting his plan into motion. Then there’s the supporting cast: Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard…just a hellacious group of actors. There’s not a weak performance in the group, in my opinion.

If there’s anything that could have been improved–it’s perhaps the introduction of our characters. I can see why they set things up they way they did–and for all I know it was totally accurate in the way it was portrayed–but we’re sort of thrust into the story, but can catch up very quickly. The film packs a lot of suspense into two hours–especially worthwhile because it’s suspense where we know the outcome. About the only way you could improve upon it is doing a miniseries–and I think a series about the attempts to take down Hitler from inside Germany might be a fascinating watch. I don’t think this film will lose anything on the small screen, but I think it’s worth catching at the matinee if you can get a decent price on a ticket.

By | 2017-09-24T23:07:53+00:00 December 28th, 2008|Reviews|12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Ron December 29, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Whilst playing disc golf today, we came up with a way to make the movie more interesting; it’s actually a sequel to Top Gun, and Maverick has gone back in time to kill Hitler!

    On another site, someone had the idea that the extras on the DVD should include an alternate ending where their plan succeeds.

  2. Widge December 29, 2008 at 1:06 am

    I dunno…I thought the film was already interesting. That being said, if Val Kilmer showed up at the end yelling, “I said you could be my wingman anytime–and I meant ANY! TIME!” and then sacrificed himself to finish the job….that would rock oxen balls.

    Also, I would actually like to see a full-on TV series, expanding on my idea in the review, of all 15 plots. Seriously. I find that fascinating.

  3. Jon December 29, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Widge,
    I have read that the film is too apologetic toward WWII Germany. (How do I put this without using political buzz words?) Some folks have said that this film kind of make it seem like Nazis were not all that bad.

    I find it a little hard to believe since Singer has handled this topic quite well in Apt Pupil and even X-Men.

    Thoughts?

  4. Widge December 29, 2008 at 11:42 am

    Whoever said that was watching a different film, frankly. The film starts off with a condemnation of what Hitler’s Nazi Germany was doing to Germany. That’s the whole reason Cruise’s character has for doing what he does. I think the problem is that we’re taught these things with no degree of nuance. What I walked away from school knowing about the situation in Germany in World War II is that it was a nation that decided, 100% through and through to be evil and do evil, hideous shit. And that everybody either was in agreement or did nothing. So I fear that some people equate “show that they were human” with “apologizing for them.” Do I feel any more sympathy for Nazis after seeing this film? Hell no. Do I feel sympathy for GERMANS after seeing this film? The ones who knew what was happening was wrong and tried to stop it, hell yes. The idea that all Germans weren’t Nazis isn’t one that has been handled well in this country’s educational system. That assumes that you get that far in world history class, anyway.

    The other piece of this is that it’s much easier if we lump bastards who act like genocidal animals into a different bucket. They might act inhuman, but they are very much human. And I think that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

    So all of that to say: not just no, fuck no. If Hitler’s Nazi Germany wasn’t evil, they wouldn’t have spent the entire film trying to bring it down–so that argument really makes no sense.

  5. Jon December 29, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, I figured that the folks on Twitter and in other blogs were just mountain building using the hills of moles. No film executive in their right mind would green light a film that was sympathetic to the Nazis.

    It is so odd to find reactionaries on the inter-webs.

  6. Widge December 29, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Yeah, I know, we’re all so level-headed on here…

  7. joe joe December 31, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I think Widge is a jerk for being so abusive to a simple question. That being said I think he is jerk. he is like the fat guy you defend in school then shoots you a bird…and you see why they didn’t like him.

  8. Widge December 31, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Joe Joe: Thanks for your comment, and I’m not being abusive when I say this, I assure you: but you think I’m being a jerk and that being said you think I’m a jerk? So…I’m a double jerk? Is that like double secret probation?

  9. Widge December 31, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    No, seriously, that being said, I’m not even sure what you’re talking about, sorry. “Thoughts?” when preceded by a small paragraph somebody wants the Thoughts on…is not a simple question unless you’re answering it with Yes No or Maybe. And the only people I could be construed as abusing in my answer are Nazis and American schools (separately and for different reasons, let me say). So…..not following. Sorry.

    I mean, you’re right that I’m a jerk…I admit that freely. I just don’t follow your reasoning.

  10. derzoonal January 7, 2009 at 1:27 am

    Valkyrie is that last movie I saw it was the best movie I seen for some time. I really wait to see it because after seen the trailer of Valkyrie I felt that it is going to grate adventure action. The respective look of the movie is pretty. When every body is including performing at the very best to make it more live as world war. Even is saw lot war movies and download the regularly with [[ REMOVED ]] this movie Valkyrie is the best selection for me.

  11. Widge January 7, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Sorry for removing your spam-link there, Derzoonal, but I almost kept it in because your whacked out comment was so entertaining just on its own. But just to play it safe.

  12. vaporware May 11, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I just finished downloading watching Valkyrie and I can say this movie was entertaining. Question?-Do you feel this telling of Valkyrie, with emphasis on the three main characters of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, General Friedrich Olbricht and General Erich Fellgiebel…was actually based upon The Three Stooges sketch-also titled Valkyrie?

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