Friday, January 16, 2009


Why doesn't anybody like Tom Cruise anymore? Even the Germans gave him a hard time during the making of this movie. That's all I remember about it, but obviously it all worked out -- the movie's out, right?

Here's the first surprise of the film: nobody attempts an accent other than their own. So, there's Tom's American; lots of British accents, notably Kenneth Branagh's (looking a little beefy, by the way), and the 2009 version of a studio contract player in the ubiquitous Tom Wilkinson; an occasional Australian accent (yes, I can tell the difference; so what if I'm from Brooklyn?), with a few genuine German accents thrown into the mix. Guess what? You get over it. It's like punctuation -- it either allows for smooth reading, or constantly calls attention to itself !! See?

After the initial opening sequences -- great war location shots, Tom in a fit to kill Hitler (oh, I mean Colonel Stauffenberg - uh, played by Tom Cruise), and a confab of meetings where earnest-looking men are plotting against die Fuhrer, the movie settles itself into the thriller spy movie it promised to be.

Here's what I liked about Valkyrie:

  1. Tom Cruise. He's great. Get over it.

  2. How the story didn't attempt to show the all-encompassing effect of Hitler's influence. We know, and the filmmakers didn't feel pressed to give us another lesson on Hitler. Thanks.

  3. The precise movements from scene to scene -- while we didn't have accents, we had the famous German precision. It was a good effect.

  4. What a surprise that, given how we know the ending, we still worried that a.) Stauffenberg was going to get caught; b.) someone was going to stop him; c.) Hitler wouldn't die in the blast.

  5. The movie worked because disbelief was utterly suspended, and even a kind of crazy rooting for them to succeed was evident in the audience.

A few things about the film irritated, but not enough to change the overall enjoyment. One thing I took away from Valkyrie was an admiration for the high-ranking officers of World War II Germany who tried to ovetake the despot's command. Whether it's historically accurate or not, it was a story about how a country achieves redemption not through history, but through the courageous actions of its people.

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