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4.2 out of 5 stars
Valkyrie [DVD]
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2011
When it comes to Tom Cruise movies, there are normally two certainties. Namely: the poster art will consist solely of his face and no matter what the situation, his character will have availed himself of impeccable dental care.

Cruise may be nominally the star but to surround himself by such capable talent on both sides of the camera lifts Valkyrie above his average vehicle. It's directed by Bryan Singer, who reunites with his Usual Suspects collaborators Christopher McQuarrie (co-writer) and John Ottman (composer and editor). The ensemble includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Terence Stamp.

The subject matter also represents a departure. The true-life story of an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler means everyone knows up front that he won't be riding off into the sunset, having got the girl who 'completes' him. In fact, Cruise's physical resemblance to the person he portrays, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, is uncanny.

Von Stauffenberg was an outspoken opponent of the Hitler regime and the prime mover behind a daring plan to eradicate the dictator from the scene once and for all. The fact that Der Führer didn't meet his end after walking into an elaborate mousetrap makes witnessing what might have been all the more fascinating. Indeed, the tension is ramped up throughout and despite their being on a hiding to nothing you find yourself rooting for the conspirators.

The one potential sticking point is the use of the actors' natural speaking voices instead of German accents. It's obvious that some of the cast would be better at them than others so this is neatly transitioned right at the beginning. You soon accept that it's a theatrical convention and doesn't detract from your enjoyment.

Singer employs a bright colour palette, which helps the Blu-ray format shine to its best advantage along with a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. The disc isn't light on extras either, with two commentaries and several featurettes covering the making of the film and a feature-length documentary about its historical background.

In a break with tradition, Cruise has allowed the cover art to include all the principal cast. Alas, his teeth remain a lighting cameraman's nightmare. It is nonetheless very highly recommended.
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42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2010
Given that this was made and released as a mainstream film with a big Hollywood name (Cruise) in the leading role, I had wrongly assumed that this would turn out to be another glitzy mis-recreation of an important historical event. How wrong I was! I was very pleasantly surprised with the treatment of the subject matter which was both sensitive and accurate: a rarity indeed!
Whoever has adapted this important historical event into a screenplay has done a tremendous job creating characters who are believably human (complete with flaws) whilst remaining faithful to the events. The cast is an excellent line-up of some of the best serious actors currently treading the boards and I was pleasantly surprised at just how much British talent is showcased here. It is obvious that a great deal of homework has been done and this could serve as a great lesson to other film-makers that you do not have to distort, invent or change the facts of history to make it entertaining (NB: U571, Pearl Harbour, Inglorious Basterds!).
I would recommend this film to anyone who has even a passing interest in WW2 or even viewers who simply enjoy a good tale well told.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This is a brilliant, powerful and very realistic film describing the 20 July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi regime. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

The real story of anti-Nazi plot which ultimately led to 20 July crisis is quite well known, let's therefore just present here the main lines. It was already in 1938 that three high ranking officers of Wehrmacht, Field Marshal Erich von Witzlebben and generals Ludwig Beck and Hans Oster formed a conspiracy to overthrow Hitler. After the Kristallnacht in November 1938 revealed the true face of Nazi regime, they were joined by other people, including a prominent conservative monarchist politician Carl Goerdeler and also Helmuth Graf von Moltke, a simple lawyer but who by his familial background had vast connexions in German aristocracy and other elites.

All attempts to push Wehrmacht commanders to overthrow Hitler however failed and finally the plotters decided that it was necessary to kill Hitler first, before any coup attempt. With time, the group grew larger and more high ranking officers joined, including generals Carl-Heinrich von Stulpnagel, Henning von Tresckow and Friedrich Obricht. It was they who attempted to kill Hitler in March 1943, but the bomb placed in his plane failed to detonate. Unable to pierce Hitler's security for the second time, plotters tried to convince again some highest ranking military commanders of Wehrmacht to stage a coup - but without success. It is however revealing, that neither of those men (von Kluge, von Rundstedt, von Manstein and even Rommel!) reported the plotters to Gestapo.

In August 1943 two new men joined the conspiracy, junior in grade, but very efficient and devoted - Lieutenant-Colonel (later Colonel) Albrecht Mertz von Quirheim and Lieutenant-Colonel (later also promoted to Colonel) Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. They quite quickly took the control of the planning of the whole conspiracy and the 20 July 1944 crisis was in great part the result of their efforts, with Stauffenberg taking on himself the riskiest part of the operation. I will say no more - if you are not familiar with this story, you deserve to discover this incredible but true story by yourself.

This film is a fast paced, very tense and extremely dramatic reconstruction of events preceding the 20 July and of this famous crisis itself. The pace and the suspense are such that at the end of the film it is really hard to believe that 124 minutes passed. The film also tells a tragic tale (it is hardly a spoiler to say that Hitler survived - and therefore the conspirators couldn't) and yet it is not depressing - the plotters failed, BIG TIME, but they preserved their honor, and therefore once the last words of this film are spoken, it leaves the viewer very shaken and yet somehow strangely elated. Indeed I could almost hear Stauffenberg and his companions say those words from the Bible: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I kept the faith" - especially considering that most of those men were devoted Catholics...

Another treasure of this film is the presentation of life under the Nazi regime with its main "attraction" being present everywhere and affecting everybody, the Nazis included - mind paralizing, bones freezing FEAR! With the possible exception of the four men in the First Circle of Power whom we can see briefly in one scene (Hitler, Goring, Goebbels and Himmler) EVERYBODY in Third Reich lived in constant terror, as they could be arrested, tortured and executed at any moment for any reason. This is also why almost everybody in this film all the time takes a great care to not speak too openly, as Gestapo spies and microphones are everywhere...

Actors did an amazing job in this film, including Tom Cruise, who, notwithstanding all the excentricities and oddities of his personal life, is a GREAT ACTOR - and proves it here again! For me, the second best performance in this film was that offered by Bill Nighy, who plays general Olbricht, a man almost paralyzed with fear but who nevertheless soldiers on the best he can. Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Wilkinson are also excellent.

Bottom line, this is an excellent film telling a true story in a great and very emotional way. I will absolutely keep my DVD for another viewing. Enjoy!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 December 2014
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Historical dramas usually have one thing going against them, history. How do you build a tension filled plot when everyone knows the outcome? That was Bryan Singer's biggest problem in the making of this brilliantly constructed thriller than focused on the unsuccessful attempt by a leading group of German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the Summer of 1944. Bringing together an all star cast that would put most productions to shame, Singer made us invest our faith in these men who tried in vain to do the right thing.

Led by Tom Cruise as colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a disillusioned officer who finally wakes up to the atrocities his country has committed under Hitler, he joins a secret committee with plans to replace The Fuhrer. This group of men harbor ambitions to seize control of the country and seek an alliance with the Western Allies in order to save Germany from the Russians. The plot is complex and full of hazards, but each conspirator holds his nerve as von Stauffenberg detonates a bomb inside Hitler's Wolf's Lair in Rastenburg. From then on in it's all or nothing as step by step their plans are set in motion.

With a cast that includes Cruise, alongside Brits Tom Wilkinson, Terrence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, and Tom Hollander, as well as European class acts Thomas Kretschmann, Christian Berkel, and Carice van Houten, this film is a monumental achievement.

It looks glorious, frighteningly so. Authentic to the point of shivers, Singer recreates a Berlin adorned with Nazi insignia and full of uniformed troops that cast a shadow over humanity itself. This is visually one of the best looking WWII movies around, and with a script penned by Christopher McQuarrie has real class to it. It may have a Hollywood feel to it, but both the message and the sacrifice these men made is given the respect it deserves.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
On paper this is a film that I should have hated. An American take on WW2 history, a director whose films I followed with interest following his remarkable debut, but with whom I have been distinctly underawed since, and a main star that I utterly detest as an actor and whose films I usually try to avoid. But after being convinced to put my prejudices aside and got to see it I must say that I found it to be a remarkably good film.

As anyone looking here probably already knows, the film revolves around Operation Valkyrie, a high level German plot to assassinate Hitler in the latter part of 1945 in an attempt to stave off the excesses of the Nazi regime and end the war as quickly and honourably as possible. Cruise stars as Von Stauffenberg, the head of the plot and the man chosen to do the actual deed. He has a remarkable physical similarity to the real Stauffenberg, and for the first time manages to portray a character who I both understand and have sympathy for. He is perfect for the part, and it's not often I say that about Cruise, who I often find to be a bit wooden and unengaging. As is usual with Hollywood, when they cannot find any German actors to fill the main German parts they turn to Brits, and the cream of British acting can be found in the supporting roles. Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Brannagh, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Ian McNeice, Tom McNally, Bernard Hill, Kenneth Cranham and Danny Webb, to name a few, all grace the screen here. The assembled talent is impressive, and put to the best possible use by Singer. He manages to get a variety of excellent characterisations out of the actors, who manage to skilfully portray the motivations, personas and demeanours of the various plotters, so that every bit player is a memorable three dimensional construct, and not just some 2D cypher as so often happens.

I do not know how closely this follows the actual events, but the story that unfolds is gripping, well constructed and well portrayed. I especially like that the film makers concentrate not just on the requirement to kill Hitler, but also the plans that need to be made for the future, in order to pull off the coup in as watertight fashion as possible. Singer directs with an attention to detail that is impressive, putting forth a drama heavy with plot, yet still manages to grip the viewer with moments of high tension. And the final fates of the conspirators is done in a series of sequences that manage to be powerful without being too melodramatic. Singer here finally lives up to the promise he showed with Usual Suspects, delivering a film that shows the little details that go to make up the broad sweepof history.

It's great stuff, a film well worth watching. 5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Valkyrie is based on a true story, that of a plot to kill Adolf Hitler towards the end of the Second World War. The man behind the assassination attempt was Claus von Stauffenberg, who despite having originally sworn an oath of allegiance to the Fuehrer later became disillusioned with the Nazi leader's cause and shifted his sense of duty to the interests of the nation of Germany rather than its leader. He attempted throughout the summer of 1942 to persuade senior commanders to move against Hitler, and he declared that he himself was prepared to kill Hitler. Of course, it is common knowledge that he failed, creating an obvious hurdle for the film-makers as the audience knows the ending before the beginning.

Just because this is based on a true story doesn't make it good; it was poorly conceived and really didn't need to be made in the first place. Documentary films have been made in the past that cover all the essential bases, and any purpose to its dramatisation is bound to be restricted due to the widely-known facts and outcomes. Perhaps it was conceived because Tom Cruise wanted to make it, a man with controversial private beliefs (also well documented) and who has stated that he wanted to kill Hitler from the time he was 13 years old; a little silly, let's be honest, given that Cruise was born some 17 years after the Nazi leader died anyway. Scientology is banned in Germany, by the way, so that hasn't helped matters.

Which begs the obvious question: should Tom Cruise have been cast as Colonel Stauffenberg? In my opinion, categorically not. But since Cruise was Executive Producer, he made the call (to himself, I presume) and at the audition (with himself) he secured the part. Ridiculous. But I think most of the actors were miscast, personally - it always seemed utterly absurd that the language was English spoken by mainly American and British actors - Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp and Eddie Izzard make for a pretty unlikely ensemble for a German crew in WW2. Some fared better than others but it was always a distraction, much like Kate Winslett's variable German accent in THE READER and the Slavic accents of Daniel Craig and his crew in DEFIANCE. In all three cases I would prefer subtitles accompanied by an authentic acting group (i.e. German in this case) so with a handful of exceptions - those being in lesser roles, unfortunately - this film is entirely miscast with Tom Cruise the most obvious culprit, regardless of his noble efforts. Some will doubtless disagree, but he didn't work for me.

The first hour of the film is allocated to talking about the plot to kill Hitler, a rather frustrating hour because everybody knows the plot will fail - so there's really no element of suspense at all. In fact, there's none. It gets a lot more interesting when the would-be assassins actually put their plans into action (director Bryan Singer having a decent pedigree in this regard with THE USUAL SUSPECTS, THE X-MEN and X2) but with zero suspense the next best alternative might have been to concentrate on the characters themselves, the protagonists behind the plot, but I never really cared very much what happened to them. This may be because I knew their fate was doomed from the outset, I don't know, but there was almost no tension at all.

Misleading? I think so, because although there is no mention of or reference to the Holocaust, the fact is that von Stauffenberg was a blatant anti-semite, which for me raises questions as to the man's longer term objectives, his moral integrity (if such a thing can be questioned of an assassin!) and his political stance. We have a hater of Jews (and who knows, possibly a past killer of Jews) plotting to kill Hitler, mastermind of one of the worst genocides in history. This is just one reason why it's difficult to root for von Stauffenberg, compromised considerably further by the actor chosen (by himself) to play the part.

With several of the cast from Pirates of the Caribbean working side-by-side here, the finished product is riddled with holes in its casting, language and its very existence. German friends of mine have stated their complete non-interest in it, as well as in THE READER, and advised me that it was not worth a trip to the cinema. As for the DVD, this would have to be a rental rather than a purchase. If Tom Cruise had a bizarre objective in hoping that the German people would be swayed enough by this film (or him) to reconsider - and accept Scientology - then he is fatally mistaken as it is more likely to alienate that 'religion' further still.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2012
Fate plays some strange trick's even in 2012. First I must explain I am a 90 year old Ex British alied Service man,I saw and experienced first hand the Horror's of Bergen Belsen Cocentration Camp!, so I am very aware of all the sspects of World War 11 in it's outcome.I have just seen the most recent of the several versions of the attempted Asasination Of the German Nazi leader Adof Hitler.
This in most respects is a very well made and directed film. I must confess I was very surprised to see an American Film actor put in this films major role. I had my doubts of this choice,but accepted that to sell it State Side a US performer was an inevitable choice.
Sadly I was proved right,Mr Cruise is very much a fish out of the water,in fact a fish DEAD in the water withing the first 15 minutes of the films run time.
It was by pure chance however that just a day afer getting my DVD Copy from Amazon that on my Cable Channel we had the earlier edition in 1990 "Operation Valkyrie " With Brad Davies. This IS the more realistic version of what is after all a moment in history and I feel this more recent version is sadly 'assinated' by Mr Cruise.
Eric Frith ,Now resident in MALTA.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not sure why some of reviewers didn't rate the film very highly ?
I think to enjoy the film you would maybe need to be interested in what is now 'Historical Events'...in that contex it was most certainly a well portrayed movie.
The 'Valkyrie' assassination plot was of course the best documented attempt on 'Hitler's' life ( there were many others, shame he didn't ever seem to 'get-it' that he wasn't as popular as he'd imagined )
In this film it portrays several high-ranking 'German-Officers and other personnel planning to kill 'Hitler' along with some of his closest 'Military' allies, the plot was, once the deed was done an immediate take-over of the military and government would be implemented, along with the arrest of Generals and S.S.officers loyal to 'Hitler' bringing an early end to hostility.
Failure's concequences were all too well known, the risks were great
But the prize for success would be to save thousands of lives and bring about peace.
For me this is one of the best and most demanding role's 'Tom Cruise' has undertaken,it's a good film,a well told 'historical' drama coupled with a great cast.
Good Picture and Sound Quality Throughout.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Bryan Singer’s masterful recreation of the final attempt on Hitler’s life in July 1944 is a tremendously exciting and atmospheric true life thriller starring Tom Cruise as the disillusioned German army officer Claus Von Staufenberg. He along with other disheartened officers and politicians attempt to remove Hitler and hopefully save Europe from the last desperate gasps of National Socialism and Nazism. The way the SS and hardened Nazi officers were dealing with prisoners and civilians sickened many and fostered dissent within the ranks that eventually turned into revolt.

With an intelligent script, pleasing screenplay, interesting and inventive direction and an excellent cast including, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson, Singer’s excellent film beautifully captures the truly desperate feelings that must have been prevalent at the time. Production values are very high, the sets and costumes are superb and the production zips along at a fair pace, even in the quieter moments.

The fact that the “coup” almost succeeded is a testament to the high quality of the extremely brave man and women who took part in, what was in fact at the time, treasonable activity. The terrible and completely illegal retribution meted out to those caught was, as you would expect from the Nazi regime uninterested with the rule of law, almost unbelievably brutal.

I was totally mesmerised, with this true life and death story, and couldn’t look away for the entire running time of just short of two hours. Cruise is on top form from the great opening sequence in the dessert and dominates the film in a way that only a great actor can. Ably supported by that great cast, Valkyrie is fabulous intelligent and extremely handsome filmmaking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2015
Valkyrie gets a lot of stick because of true life German officers being played by actors who speak English without any hint of a German accent.If you can ignore that and i did(i will write later about this subject)you get a true life story that is chock full of tension and superb moments along with some amazing action scenes and a all star cast on fine form headlined by a career best for Tom Cruise.

Its of course about the plot by Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg(Cruise)and group of fellow German officers to assassinate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and get back power from the Nazis and make peace with Allied forces thus ending World War 2.But as the plan is put into action not all goes to plan and their very lives are put under severe threat as they desperately try to save the country they love from pure evil.

As this is a true story its made much more believable and because of this it feels more gripping than most films i have seen and the main reason it is gripping like this is because you put yourself in these men's shoes to imagine what fright they must of went through and sleepless nights they must of experienced knowing that one wrong move would of seen them go before a firing squad.

The acting is for me Oscar worthy and deserves more credit than they received.Tom Cruise normally known as a action type actor is marvelous as the man trying to bring down evil itself and as you watch him get closer to fulfilling his mission you feel his nerves of getting anything wrong,he really is brilliant and deserved a Oscar nod.Other top actors like Bill Nighy,Tom Wilkinson,Kenneth Branagh,Terence Stamp and Eddie Izzard all are part of the team to plan out the mission and all are superb and back up Cruise excellently.Carice van Houten though doesn't speak much is a wonderful actress and plays the worried wife of Claus.We also briefly have David Bamber as Adolf Hitler himself and is different to most depictions of the Fuhrer but as some historians say Hitler started to go a bit strange as the war neared its end so this depiction of a over the top excitable person is very well done.

The big thing that critics moaned about as i said before was the actors speaking in a true English accent when they are supposed to be German.But as i read before the film producers i think fooled us all as the characters ARE speaking German to each other but what WE hear is the English translation(its very clever don't you think and makes sense for other films that have done this).

The action and suspense is quite fabulous with true edge of your seat drama mixed with explosions and set pieces.The tension is just stunning with all the main characters sweating because of the fear of being caught and also the love the scene where Claus is in the same room as Hitler and his group of supporters Himmler,Goring and Goebbels(believe me that scene is just edge of your seat).The famous scene where Claus plants a explosive briefcase in the room where Hitler is before it blows up is superb with a huge explosion being a great moment to hear on your surround sound.The scenes with them plotting the mission are just as good as the action moments.There are plenty of scenes of pure tension that you may end up with no nails after biting them all off.The final scenes are very sad and may bring a tear to your eye especially knowing this all happened.

I have no bad things to say about this apart from it feels a bit Hollywood now and then and would of liked more of Claus's wife as she was excellent but a bit underused.

But this is a classic true life war thriller and is one of the most tension filled couple of hours i have seen with a five star performance from Tom Cruise and some amazing action scenes.
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