Cruise of the Valkyries – Valkyrie review

Valkyrie – Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. Directed by Bryan Singer. Rated M for violence and infrequent coarse language. 120 mins.

“Leave Tom Cruise alone!” I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of sounding too much like that guy who posted a video of himself online, begging people through his tears to give Britney Spears a break. I constantly jump to Mr. Cruise’s defence like it was Oprah’s couch. Tom Cruise is one of the finest actor’s of his generation, and continues to align himself with entertaining films time and time again. So why do people hate on him so much? I mean, I know why. But I just don’t think it’s fair. Valkyrie is another entry into Cruise’s canon of quality films and performances. No matter how many people I tell, they always come back with “yeah, but…”

Although it’s set during World War 2, Valkyrie is not just another holocaust movie (because let’s face it – that’s been covered). It’s an examination of the men who led the resistance against Hitler, a side of some wartime Germans that has sadly been pushed under the carpet. I have to admit, I was not familiar with the details of Operation Valkyrie, despite having spent several years in high school studying German history. Meh, I’ll still tell people I’m an expert.

The resistance against Hitler and the S.S isn’t going so well. General Tresckow (Branagh) sneaks an explosive onto the Fuhrer’s private jet, and upon realizing it didn’t go off, is forced to steal it back. So there have been setbacks. Over on the Tunisian frontline, General Claus Von Stuaffenberg (Cruise) is reaching celebrity status for his bravery, and his opposition to the Nazi party’s beliefs. He was a soldier for Germany before it meant siding with Adolf. After losing a hand and eye in combat, Stauffenberg is sent home to be with his wife (Carice Van Houten) and lovely Aryan children. Tresckow sees an opportunity to bring fresh blood into his motley crew of conspirators.

And so Stauffenberg joins the resistance, and brings Operation Valkyrie to the table. It’s a contingency plan in case of Hitler’s premature death, in which the S.S are instructed to take charge of the Government. Stauffenberg knows Hitler isn’t the only cog that needs to be removed for the machine to fall apart. A quick rewrite of Op Valkyrie and the resistance is ready to take out the Fuhrer and his personal army. Oh, but first the big man himself has to sign it. Uhh…

Thomas Kretschmann and Christian Berkel from the brilliant Downfall have small but memorable roles – however, that’s pretty much it for the German acting contingent. Even Hitler himself is played by a Brit. A lot has been made about the casting of American and British actors in the lead roles. Following the debut of the film’s trailer, the internet community was abuzz with anti-Valkyrie sentiment. Fair enough; it was strange to see these German heroes speaking with British accents. I could understand a complaint if the actors were incompetent, but any cast featuring Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Eddie Izzard deserves respect. I took a notoriously critical war buff to Valkyrie, and eagerly reserved my enjoyment of the film until finding out how accurate and effective he felt it was. You’ll be glad to know it has his tick of approval.

Bryan Singer wrings as much tension as can be wrung from an outcome every cinemagoer already knows. The film isn’t trying to trick audiences into thinking, ‘well, maybe they will get him’. The tension comes from the inevitable failure of Stauffenberg’s mission and the resistance’s delayed awareness of the result. Fears of an Americanised version of the classic mission are unnecessary – there are really only one or two action sequences. But the film manages to keep the audience on tender hooks through sheer conversational anxiety. And no, I don’t think Cruise was prepared for the role thanks to numerous backdoor Scientology conspiracies. Leave him alone!

4/5

Check out the trailer.

One Response to “Cruise of the Valkyries – Valkyrie review”

  1. This movie rocked so much it blew my socks.I now need new socks.I hate you Tom Cruise! I’m sending you a bill for one pair of socks (while fairly well worn, they were lucky and still had six months in them, bless their little holes)

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