Valkyrie (2008)






THE SCOOP
Director:  Bryan Singer

Cast:  Tom CruiseBill NighyCarice van Houten, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh
Plot:  Based on actual events, a plot to assassinate Hitler is unfurled during the height of WWII.

Genre:  Drama / History / Thriller
Awards:  -
Runtime:  121min

Rating:  PG for violence and brief strong language.

IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)

More than a decade back, Bryan Singer made one of the best films of the 1990s - The Usual Suspects (1995) - an original near-perfect crime thriller that blew everyone away with its superlative writing and its astonishing climax leaving almost no room for Singer to try to outdo himself in future projects.

His latest feature continues the trend of 'okay' works by him, though Valkyrie is about the closest Singer has attempted to direct something that is less commercial since The Usual Suspects

Lead actor Tom Cruise is past his prime, yet he is still one of the most marketable stars around and can sell a movie solely by his name.  He plays Colonel Stauffenberg, a Nazi officer who becomes disillusioned with Hitler’s war policies and decides to assassinate him for the good of humanity. 


He forms a secret outfit and lays the groundwork for Operation Valkyrie, a treacherous mission of significant importance that could save millions of lives.  “But in the military nothing ever goes according to plan” says a character in the film whose statement becomes the focus of Singer’s thrilling drama. 


Valkyrie starts out like a war film with an impressive air-raid sequence by the Allies on a Nazi base.  We are immediately introduced to Cruise whom initially looks inappropriate in a Nazi uniform.  There is nothing special about his performance, though he appears to fit comfortably into his role. 


The supporting cast is excellent, outshining Cruise in many occasions, especially Tom Wilkinson’s General Fromm and Carice van Houten’s Mrs. Stauffenberg.  The mechanics of the operation are laid out clearly in Valkyrie so that viewers can easily understand the reasons it failed.  


Singer knows that everyone knows that Hitler survived. So he fashions a film that creates tension through the uneasiness and fear felt by the characters involved in the mission instead of dwelling on Hitler’s fate because that is ultimately immaterial.  The suspense is there, but it will not leave viewers on the edge of their seats.  


Valkyrie moves quickly, rarely stops for further character development, but ends in an emotional crest.  Yes, at the surface it entertains.  But viewers will leave the theaters wanting something more on their plates.  Singer’s reluctance to take risks by injecting creativity and imagination to its storytelling means that even for a true story that Valkyrie is based on; it gets no further than a slightly decent fictional Hollywood actioner. 


GRADE: B (7.5/10 or 3.5 stars)







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