The Fat Lady Sings, But Not For Hitler — Valkyrie

December 29, 2008

d. Bryan Singer 

Bryan Singer reteams with Chris McQuarrie for the first time since The Usual Suspects to deliver a taut thriller about a group of Germans officers, led by Colonel Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), who plan on assassinating Hitler and taking control of the government in an effort to end the war.

It’s an interesting fact that there were 14 previous attempts on Hitler’s life, and as History attests, Stauffenberg’s attempt is doomed to failure. Much like characters subject to their inescapable fate in Benjamin Button, Stuaffenberg and company set up the pieces that inevitably leads to their own downfall. Most of the thrill of the movie is seeing how an elaborate well-thought out plan unravels.

In the age of the Internet and immediate information, it is a marvel to see how the engine of misinformation in the age of telegram and phone calls back in the 40s almost resulted in a different outcome to World War II. Stuaffenberg, having believed that a bomb has killed the Fuhrer, controls the flow of information by simply having an inside man severing the phone connections from the Wolf’s Lair (Hitlers strategic bunker) to Berlin where the coup is taking place. And it takes several hours before rumours of Hitler’s demise are dispelled.

It’s also amazing how far the plan was actually executed because of such delays in communication. Valkyrie refers to a contingency plan where, if Hitler were killed, the German National Guard would be given power to arrest anyone in order to keep civil unrest at a minimum. Stauffenberg and his staff’s plan was to use Valkyrie to arrest all SS officers and troops in order to prevent them from retaking the government; in their absence, Stauffenberg would have his men wrest control of the government.

Of course, all this would have gone according to plan if Adolf Hitler were actually dead.

Tom Cruise displays great restraint as he boils internally as everything he has is at stake — his career, his family, and his life. His performance is commanding and forceful, and it helps that he is surrounded by the most amazing ensemble of British actors ever assembled outside of a Harry Potter movie.

On his side are Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp, and Kenneth Branagh all giving nobility and dignity to their characters. We also get major supporting roles from Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong), Tom Wilkinson, and no less than 3 more actors from Pirates of the Caribbean (Tom Hollander, Kevin McNally and David Schofield in addition to Bill Nighy).

So in spite of knowing the outcome, the twists and turns of a plan that almost came to fruition makes for a thrilling and tense movie filled with great performances.

***1/2 stars.


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