Monday, 15 June 2009


I don't know if the storm has got anything to do with this, but my computer is so slow, it's painful. My fellow blogger Middle Aged Gapper asked me what the film Valkyrie was like which I recently bought on DVD, so I thought I would devote a little time to it here for a wider audience (he hopes!)

I wanted to see this at the cinema and never got round to it so I took advantage when it arrived in the shops in pretty quick time which I always think is never a measure of a good film if the DVD follows the film very shortly after the general release. The best way to attack this is to separate the performances against the production and story.

The production values of this film were fairly high with some good quality CGI in the beginning as we see Tom Cruise playing Colonel Claus von Stauffenburg writing a diary during the desert war expressing his dislike the way the country is being ruined by Hitler and his cronies. Stauffenburg then loses his hand and most of the fingers from the other hand and his left eye when his armoured vehicle is hit by an allied air strike. This sets the scene. He becomes a trusted war hero among his peers.

Cruise underplays the role unlike the action hero we are used to; this is played with measured control and understated but his need to keep his plans secret is the tension in his character, this family man who knows he could lose everything if things don't go well in removing Hitler.

He is approached to join a clan of high ranking officers and civilian politicians who want to wrest power and so the story moves on with planning which materialises in Operation Valkyrie, the plan, authorised by Hitler for the reserve army to take control should Hitler die. Stauffenburg sees this as his opportunity and... well I won't spoil it.

He is ably supported by some well known, largely British actors all of whom play their characters in an understated way as well which increases the tension felt by this inward looking army, bearing in mind there have already been 14 attempts on Hitler's life. Bill Nighy is General Olbricht the prime military mover at Headquarters who doesn't quite show the courage and fortitude he should and brilliant Kenneth Brannagh is career officer Major-General Henning von Tresckow, Cruise's recruiter. Nighy is reunited with actor Kevin McNally (who starred with Nighy in the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) as the civilian would-be chancellor Dr. Goerdeler. Terence Stamp plays General Beck, again quiet and reserved and the role of General Fellgiebel is well played by Eddie Izzard who shows what an accomplished actor he has become.

The scenery and sets are what you would expect in 1944 Berlin albeit a little pristine in condition although the uniforms do display a strange variety of coloured jackets, which I suspect was realistic in that Generals and men of wealth would buy their own uniforms. The atmosphere created was tense enough if you watched the characters closely and the film moved apace in what was a short time frame. It was pleasing not to have to endure flashes, bangs and unnecessary and gratuitous violence which is always a danger in war films, instead this one concentrated on the story. The photography was naive and did not assist the audience feel on the edge of their seats - take the classic 'Third Man' - all photographic technique which this film needed to take it to a higher level. I would have even considered this fair game if they had filmed this in high contrast black and white with night scenes and sharp lighting - it would have improved it a lot - shades of cold war thrillers!

The strange thing is, because there was no real building of the characters, getting to know them or their foibles, the film was rather like a well acted documentary and the end left you wanting a little bit more - 'is this all there is to it?' The story of Hitler's attempted assassination at the Wolf's Lair is well known and well documented and the film does bring the characters forward to identify their roles but overall it just lacked some passion, deliberately driven by the director because the actors are capable of so much more as we know.

Borrow the DVD or wait for it to appear on television, don't spend £15 on the disc. Enjoyable but glad I didn't see it at the cinema. The Internet Movie Database gives it 7 out of 10 and that's okay because of the historical accuracy and the clever way Stauffenburg cons Hitler. Not a disaster by any means but left me a tadge disappointed. I wonder if Cruise had directed this how different it might have been.

Adam Sandler tell this story about fame as an actor:

I was in New Hampshire with my family at a pizza place. The kid working there goes, "Hey, you look like Adam Sandler." I said, "Yeah, I know." The kid goes, "What's your name?" I replied, "Adam Sandler." And he goes, "Whoa, that's a coincidence!"

Chat soon


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