Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, Kevin McNally, Christian Berkel, Jamie Parker, David Bamber, Tom Hollander, David Schofield, Kenneth Cranham, Halina Reijn, Werner Daehn, Harvey Friedman
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander
Directed by: Bryan Singer
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
Running Time: 121
Date: 12/25/2008
IMDB

Valkyrie (2008)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Good Germans

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I skipped Valkyrie during its theatrical run because I felt like I had seen a thousand war movies last year and I just didn't have the strength for number 1001. But now that I caught up with it, I'm glad to say that it puts most of those others to shame, specifically the more highly acclaimed films The Reader and Defiance. Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie and director Bryan Singer team up for the first time since The Usual Suspects (with help from writer Nathan Alexander). Their Valkyrie tells the true story of a group of German "traitors" who realized that Hitler's overall plan was insane and needed to be stopped from within. Tom Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who begins the movie narrating in German; his words are casually translated into English, mid-sentence (a neat device, also used in The Hunt for Red October). He's wounded in battle, losing some of his fingers and his left eye. Sent back home, he joins the resistance. Their first task is to get an order signed that will allow our heroes to quickly take charge in the event of an assassination. The next step is to make that assassination happen. The filmmakers turn in a sharp, detailed, yet emotional tale, making every intelligent twist and turn appropriately tense. Of course, we know that Hitler doesn't die in 1944, but the movie makes us hope. Many critics have complained that Cruise's take-charge performance clashes with the rest of the film, but he brings a gung-ho excitement and energy that's generally missing from war movies today (they're more concerned with being stern and glum and anti-war). I submit that his performance makes the entire thing work. The superb cast also includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard and Tom Hollander. David Bamber does a good job with the distasteful task of playing Hitler.

DVD Details: MGM's very good 2009 DVD release comes with two commentary tracks. The first, enticingly, is with Singer, McQuarrie and Tom Cruise, though their discussion seems to be mostly business. Then writers McQuarrie and Alexander team up for another track. Then we get a 15-minute making-of featurette, and better still, a 42-minute TV documentary on the same story, Kevin Burns' "The Valkyrie Legacy."