Although some saw Tom Cruise's last film as a possible propaganda vehicle, it's tempting to look upon it more as a cry for help. After seeing him playing a man so increasingly disillusioned with the insane control-freak tendencies of the personality cult that has taken control of every aspect of its followers lives and sets out to destroy all who disagree with it that he becomes part of a doomed plot to kill its leader, David Miscavige probably made sure the security was trebled next time Cruise visited the compound.
Valkyrie is one of those films that's neither the disaster many were hoping for nor quite as good as it could have been, never quite veering to either side as it all too steadily ploughs its course through another retelling of the failed July Plot to assassinate Hitler. If there are no real lows there are also, sadly, precious few highs, the film retelling events efficiently but never really gripping as tightly as it should and only briefly engaging the emotions in the final scenes, and those you suspect more for the fate of the real people involved than those onscreen. It's a noble effort, but it's hard to resist comparing it to the failed assassination attempt: it makes a big noise but it doesn't quite hit the target.
Originally intended as a lower-budget directorial outing for co-writer Christopher McQuarrie and German actor Thomas Kretschman, who gets a fairly thankless supporting role as consolation, it's certainly a big improvement on eventual director Bryan Singer's ponderous take on Superman, but despite marshalling some impressive resources thanks to Tom Cruise's involvement, it never quite grasps the epic enormity of its subject: the first half is less a desperate attempt to pull back from the brink of destruction than a series of measured conversations in rooms and offices. Despite some flat one-dimensional characterisation, it doesn't entirely idealise its conspirators - as one unwilling recruit blackmailed into co-operating tells them, they're like rats deserting a sinking ship who may be no better than the people they want to replace - but it's only when their plan starts to go wrong thanks to stalling, indecision and plain bad luck that the film starts to take hold. Multi-tasking editor/composer/co-executive producer John Ottman's score could have given the film more help at times, but only really comes into its own in the end credits. It's a worthy effort, and not nearly as bad as that word now implies, with some good supporting performances from Tom Wilkinson, Christian Berkel, Kenneth Branagh and Terence Stamp (though Carice van Houten is wasted as Cruise's wife): it just needed to be that bit more forceful and direct to really fulfil its promise.
As is increasingly common, the DVD edition stints on the extras - even the documentary is a cutdown version of the one included on the BluRay.