Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh
Release date: December 25, 2008
Fundamentally speaking, the appeal of Tom Cruise in the last few years doesn’t make any sense. Just as soon as he took Katie Holmes hostage and started parading her and her ‘too scared for escape’ look around the world, people seem to have become disinterested in anything he has to do professionally; or so they say. Sure he was great in Tropic Thunder, but I’m talking about the movies he has had to carry on his own. Everyone seems to talk a big game but with the exception of last year’s Lions for Lambs, you have to go all the way back to Magnolia, almost a decade ago, to find a film he starred in that didn’t gross at least $100M domestically. So much for disinterest. Maybe he just has mind control over all of us too.
Keep in mind, these aren’t secrets I am exposing for the first time, so why his pick for his latest project was a big budget WWII Hitler assassination movie is beyond comprehension. For a man so caught up on selling his image, it stands to reason that there would be better ways to spend his time. It ended up being much worse than it appeared on the surface. The release date for Valkyrie moved so many times nobody cared when it was really coming out and as soon as the trailers came out the backlash was already in full effect.
Now about that — if you decided upon viewing the trailer that you weren’t going to like the movie because of the American accents, then seeing the movie then complaining about the accents seems a bit counterproductive. Find something else to complain about; or at least, find something more. Yes, it is distracting. Yes, it would have been better had they at least tried, or not replaced them with a handful of soggy Brits. But again, all things we knew from the trailer months ago. So as for you, Mr. 800 lb. Gorilla, if you are going to stay in here you are going to have to sit there and keep quiet — you’ve been addressed. Let’s move on.
The aesthetics may take the spotlight, but the movie actually has a pretty interesting plot. I suppose it’s less a plot than history lesson, depicting the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. Conceived by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) who had become disenfranchised with the way Nazi Germany was handling the war, Operation Valkyrie was a plan, of Hitler’s design, that would implement an interim government in the event of his death. So all Stauffenberg had to do was select the people to run his shadow government, devise the plan to have Hitler killed, and initiate Operation Valkyrie to reinstate the image of his holy Germany. It’s not a bad setup, but even the movie knows it’s a little too tidy, where at one point someone is heard saying the line, “It’s a military operation – nothing goes according to plan.”
The good news is that it plays out like a cross-section of WWII history. The bad news is that it plays out exactly like a cross-section of WWII history. There are too many wheels in motion long before we even get sat down in the theatre. Think of it as joining our regularly scheduled World War already in progress. Director Bryan Singer attempts to hit the ground running showcasing his greatest strength — action, but as the movie barrels ahead there is a lot of groundwork that needs laid before any real action or tension can take place. It finally does in the second hour and Cruise and Co. are able to pull together a pretty serviceable war thriller.
It’s like mowing the yard when you were younger on the family’s beat up old mower. You know, the one you had to crank a half-dozen times to get it started. It worked fine once you got it started; it was just a pain in the ass getting there. Once you get passed all the preconceptions about the movie it’s really not that bad. Not great, but not terrible.
That is, if you can get passed the accents.
And there’s the rub.
** ½ out of ****