Valkyrie

Valkyrie

Film review by: Witney Seibold

 

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            Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” tells the tale of one of the Nazi party’s own attempts on Adolf Hitler’s life during WWII. Why did they want to kill Hitler? Well, I think “Valkyrie” takes for granted that we’ll all just know that he’s evil. No political wrestling. No long discussions as to why he needs to be ousted. We just need to have our hatred of movie Nazis in full effect, and we’ll understand “Valkyrie.” To be sure, it is a taut thriller, and there were many scenes of terrific tension, but, at the end of the day, it is just an action flick which only incidentally features real historical characters. The only reason the plot failed was some beurocratic footshuffling, and, well, also it didn’t kill Hitler.

 

            Col. Claus Von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) disagrees with Hitler’s programs right at the outset of the film, and is injured a short while later. He returns home sans one hand, three addition fingers and an eye. His loss makes him resolute in his belief that Hitler must be killed, and he is enlisted by some other Nazi higher-ups who agree. I don’t want to give away too much about the assassination plot, as it’s the heart of the film, but I’ll just say that it’s as complicated as any heist, and involves colorful British performers in supporting roles, among them Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Tom Wilkinson, and Terrence Stamp.

 

            It’s a pleasure to see any of the above listed Brits doing their thing; they are all either great actors, or, in the case of Izzard, an average actor who makes up for it with an overwhelming presence. He was good in Alex Cox’s “Revenger’s Tragedy” which I watched a few nights ago.

 

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            So yes, it’s pretty much an enjoyable film. That said, here are my central complaints: Every actor speaks in their native accent. That means every Nazi is British. Except for Cruise who sounds like he’s lived in Southern California for most of his life. Cruise does what he can with his role, but is given a little more to do than (be resolute in your need to kill Hitler). Oddly, though, one actor is allowed to practice his German dialect, and that would be David Bamber, who played Hitler. I guess bad Germans are German, good Germans are British, and great Germans are American. Go America! I knew we tried to kill Hitler. Even if we were Nazis.

 

            Also, the film spells everything out for us; it’s not as smart as it could have been. Rather than trusting us to know certain details of WWII, and details of Hitler’s life, they spell everything out for us. The film’s score by John Ottman (who also edited) punds every tense moment into the ground, when silence would have been more befitting. There’s even a moment when Wagner’s “Ride if the Valkyries” is playing on the soundtrack, and Singer bothers to zoom in on a spinning record label to show us the name of the piece of music. Um, I think most people know that piece of music by now.      

 

            One last thing, from the geek within me: Sometimes when I see a sci-fi film or TV show which features an obvious metaphor to real life (and I watched “Star Trek,” so I’ve encountered this a lot), I sometimes wish the filmmakers would have just spent their time making a real-life story. With “Valkyrie,” I got the feeling that it would have been stronger as a sci-fi metaphor.

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Published in: on January 17, 2009 at 12:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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