Movie Review: Valkyrie (2008)

Just when I thought that Hollywood could no longer deliver an entertaining and historically accurate movie all in the same billing, Brian Singer’s Valkyrie proved me wrong. This story is quite intriguing, as it is unheard of by most people and is left out of history publications, first and foremost excluding textbooks.

Valkyrie tells a very simple story, whose inner workings are anything but. This is the story of one of the forty separate attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler, by his own men. This plot, which in German is called Wulkure, was the closest anyone ever came to killing the Fuhrer.

Tom Cruise, who I really did not like beforehand, showed how much he matured as an actor by nailing the role of Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg, the man in charge of Operation Valkyrie. He delivered a straightforward, and honest performance, as the man who loves Germany, and will even risk death for high treason to try to save it from the destructive Nazi regime.

This movie is also loaded with excellent supporting characters. Tom Wilkinson, who I loved in The Patriot and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, was perfect for the job of General Fromm, the ultra-important commanding general of the German Reserve Army, which the plot depends upon mightily.

Terence Stamp and Bill Nighy also fit in nicely with their roles, and this was a bit of a reunion for the cast of the 2002 A & E miniseries Shackleton, as Kenneth Branagh, Kevin McNally, Danny Webb, and Chris Larkin appear in both films. Branagh and McNally also each appeared in another film as Nazis in the Holocaust themed HBO production Conspiracy, in which another Valkyrie star, Ian McNiece also appeared (read my review of that here).

Christian Berkel, of Der Untergang, also appears, as does Eddie Izzard and Carice Van Houten.

The one thing that this film executed really well was the absence of accents. Most historical dramas often find the actors trying to put on foreign accents that end up sounding downright horrible. This film had the actors using their normal accents, and in the beginning of the film, established German as the vernacular, by having Tom Cruise begin in German with English subtitles at the bottom, before it slowly transforms into plain English.

I also enjoyed seeing, or rather, hearing, Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries find its way into the film, as Wagner was a favorite composer of Hitler and was the reason for the name of the plot. I have watched this movie with two people, and upon hearing this music, they both asked, “Isn’t that the music from Apocalypse Now?” Yes it is.

The real Valkyrie Plot was very complex, and this movie, although it did a terrific job, really rushed it along. In order to tell the story fully, a miniseries would have been better, because at least four hours would probably have been needed. However, for less than two hours, the film did try to include everything, but it may have been confusing to people with no prior knowledge of the event.

Overall, I will give this movie a 8 out of 10 because of the attention paid to historical accuracy and because the movie is quite intense and the final half will keep you on the edge of your seat. Also, it must be brought up how much Cruise and the real Stauffenberg resembled one another.

If you notice, Stauffenberg is in the left and center, while Cruise is on the right.

I highly recommend that if you love history, or just want to see a good action film, to give this a shot. I imagine it will be shown in more history classes as well, because it deserves more attention. This film finally shows a group of Germans standing up to the mighty Hitler, unlike what we read in textbooks, where they are all shown to be mindless drones.

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