MOVIE REVIEW | Valkyrie (2008)

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“The Fuhrer’s promises of peace and prosperity have fallen by the wayside leaving in their wake a path of destruction.”

In the 90s, Bryan Singer was the next big thing. The Usual Suspects was the cool little movie that broke big and helped launch the career of Kevin Spacey. And along wih Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, Singer’s first two X-Men movies pretty much defined what comic book movies have been ever since. Then he gave up a lot of his goodwill by making Superman Returns, a truly terrible, boring movie. These days, he’s a little all over the shop. X-Men: Days of Future Past is pretty great, while Jack the Giant Slayer looked like a colossus mess of terrible CGI and little else.

In between, is Valkyrie. I remember a lot of buzz before it came out, then it just kind of fizzled away. No one loved it, but no one hated it either. How could a movie about a plot to kill Hitler, starring Tom Cruise, directed by Singer be a fizzler? I could understand it being amazing, I could understand it being amazingly bad, but I couldn’t believe it fell in that boring, middle ground. Although, the fact that I’m only now getting to Valkyrie, seven years after its release, is a sign of how little an impact its release obviously made on me.

It’s the final months of WWII. The allies have landed in France and are making their way across Europe. While Hitler refuses to admit defeat, some of his ranking officers have become disillusioned with their furor. Including Major General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) who sneaks a bomb on board Hitler’s private plane. The bomb is a dud, and von Tresckow’s plan goes undiscovered. Undeterred and recruiting more men in their plot, von Tresckow, along with General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy) bring in colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise).

Realising that killing Hitler is only the first step to saving his beloved Germany, von Stauffenberg gets the group thinking about what happens after the assassination, who and how to seize power. Using the Valkyrie plan, an official order that will see the Home Guard take control, the rebel group also needs the head of the Home Guard, Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) and General Friederich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson). With them on board, all that’s left is to somehow get a bomb into Hitler’s private bunker.

First of all, Valkyrie looks amazing. Bryan Singer knows how to shoot and how to get the most out of his period setting. The uniforms, the architecture, the machinery and general look of 40s Berlin make this one of those movies you could watch with the sound down and still be entertained.

Although, turning the sound down would mean missing the really compelling, intricate story. This is fascinating, backroom wheeling and dealing stuff. As their plan comes together, each new addition to their inner circle means more risk of betrayal and exposure, and Valkyrie does a great job of ramping up that tension. While sometimes bordering on convoluted, all of those little details generally make it the perfect amount of complex, to make it feel all the more intense and ominous.

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Bryan Singer’s next movie is another addition to the X-Men franchise, and I’m sure it’ll be good. He has a 100% strike rate with that series so far. But with movies like Valkyrie and The Usual Suspects, I’d like him to work in the real world a little more often. With the confines of reality, his visual flare stands out more than when it’s overrun by superheroes, fantastical action and special effects.

Directed By – Bryan Singer
Written By – Christopher McQuarrieNathan Alexander

Other Opinions Are Available. What did these people have to say about Valkyrie?
Roger Ebert
The Guardian
Drew’s Movie Reviews

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