“Valkyrie” has everything going for it. It’s a fascinating piece of World War II history. It features a heroic cast of characters, all exceptionally
portrayed by a first-rate cast. It has swift pacing and delivers some genuinely suspenseful sequences. And the villain is none other than
Adolf Hitler. Yet, despite all these things, “Valkyrie” never taps its true potential.
The film’s title refers to Operation Valkyrie, a protocol to secure the Nazi’s control in Germany should the SS rebel. Tom Cruise heads a
group of high ranking military men who wish to restore Germany’s honor. They will kill Hitler and install a new government by staging an SS
And as thrilling of a caper as that makes for, it’s only when the plot begins that “Valkyrie” starts to gain energy. And make no mistake, it
does gain energy. The second half of the film is a well-crafted thriller, with excellent editing as we see chaos and confusion spread over
Hitler’s supposed death.
Until this happens, however, the film just doesn’t have much energy. The devising of the plot is filled with too much exposition, and the
characters, although exceedingly well-acted, just aren’t developed.
The way I see it, the film could have either worked as a straight thriller or a dedicated character piece to Cruise’s Colonel Claus von
Stauffenberg. Director Bryan Singer and writer’s Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander decide to simply take the middle road, and it
yields a film that isn’t quite quick enough to be a pure thriller (in the vein of a Paul Greengrass film), nor does it contain enough character
development to create genuine empathy for its characters. The very briefs scenes with Stauffenberg’s family do not have as much of an
impact as the filmmakers clearly had hoped when they are referenced later in the film to draw sympathy.
For the most part the characters in “Valkyrie” are simply pieces on a chessboard in the plot to assassinate Hitler.
The best character moments are really when Stauffenberg explains why they must take out Hitler and how they must restore “sacred
“Valkyrie” is a film that is obsessed with the plot. When that plot goes into action it delivers as it should. But before that happens, and
especially after the inevitable happens at the close of the film, we can’t help but wonder how much stronger the film would have been had
we genuinely cared for these characters.
As it is, however, “Valkyrie” is an entertaining film that falls just short of being a genuine success.
* * 1/2
(out of four)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom
Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann
Cinematography by: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music by: John Ottman
Released: December 25, 2008; 121 Minutes