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USA 2008
Directed by
Bryan Singer
121 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars


Synopsis: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) realizes that Hitler will be the downfall of Germany and hatches a plot to despatch the Fuhrer. He enlists the help of many high-ranking officials: Ludwick Beck (Terence Stamp), General Olbricht (Bill Nighy), Major General Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), General Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard), General Fromm (Tom Wilkinson) and Dr Goerdler (Carl McNally), among others. The plan is to take a bomb into a meeting at Hitler’s command centre, the Wolf’s Lair, and upon Hitler’s death, to activate Operation Valkyrie, a plan for the reserve army to take command in the event of a national emergency. Von Stauffenberg is determined that history will remember there were some men of honour, and not all were blind followers of the Fuhrer’s madness.

Given that we already know the outcome of its story, which is that the assassination plot failed and all the officers involved were executed, Valkyrie is surprisingly effective in maintaining tension and excitement. . And once the officers realise that they’ve failed, and what their fate will be empathy for them is also evoked. Singer establishes Stauffenberg as the hero early on and we quickly align ourselves with his character. A man of integrity, a loving husband and devoted family man, despite his uniform, he is the paradigmatic hero

Historically for me the film was quite a revelation. I had no knowledge of the extent to which the assassination attempt and Operation Valkyrie went – the mobilising of the Reserve Army, the attempted arrests of high ranking SS officers and so on – all going swimmingly until it was revealed that Hitler had in fact survived!

The overall look and feel of the film is impressive and the special effects, especially the simulation of von Stauffenberg’s injuries are cleverly done. Some of the locations such as the Bendlerblock, where the executions took place were real however the iconic spots of the Wolf’s Lair and Berghof in Bavaria were reconstructed. One cannot help but wish, however, that at least some use was made of German actors with actual German accents in the main roles instead of the sea of high-profile British names, whilst Cruise, who has an executive producer credit and acts competently but no more, is such a well-known face, that I could not feel real involvement. Presumably Singer was consciously trying to emulate the big budget war films of the 60s with star actors such as Gregory Peck, Trevor Howard and Burt Lancaster thrilling audiences with their heroism.

As a historical re-creation, Valkyrie works well enough, but its real weakness is a lack of insight into the men involved in such an audacious plot.




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