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.
on 12 June 2009
As an expert on Nazi Germany, having studied the subject for over 35 years, having grown to understand its causes and motivations and how these lead to an appalling - yet well stated intent - to massacre and conquer, this film simply captivates and overwhelms. I had heard a great deal of criticism levelled at Tom Cruise for attempting to play a 6ft 2 Colonel who is regarded as the chief hero of the German resistance.
However, with one tiny inaccuracy at the start of the film, it proceeded in its relentless journey to impress time after time, with its locations, infinitesimal attention to detail which can only be described as a triumph of research and its utterly moving telling of a story doomed to fail from the day it was conceived.
If ever there was a tale about how not to carry out a military coup this is it. Endless good intentions utterly ruined by a total failure of communications.
I found the scene at The Berghof, when Stauffenberg has to get Hitler to sign the Walkure amendment to enable the plan to take shape, simply unbearable in its tension. Every member of the senior German government was instantly recognisable to me without any names being used and most of them not speaking, they were that superbly portrayed and chosen. The exceptional detail of the Berghof layout was just awe-inspiring.
The aircraft scene (which there is an interesting documentary about on the disc) is again outstanding, this is exactly how Hitler travelled. Even the way everyone reluctantly puts out their cigarettes (Hitler loathed smoking)as he arrives. The focus on a mosquito biting a guard - emphasising the sultry summer heat and mosquito infested Rastenburg site was genius. You didn't have to do it, but in doing so, for detail freaks like me, this was extraordinary.
The acting was outstanding, simple as that. I may not get an Oscar or any awards, but I regard this film as one of the finest historical recreations ever made.
To all involved thank you. I and several others were in floods of tears at the end when I saw this twice at the cinema, and already three times on Blu-Ray. Never mind the digital copy that sits on my iPhone so I can bore others to death at will.
I cannot say anything bad about this film. It was a risk to make it, asking for massive criticism and yet its sensitivity, detail and accuracy, especially using (even if unintentionally in one case) the actual locations where possible, just made it as near perfect as can be reasonable 65 years past the event.
on 31 May 2009
I was a little hesitant to see this movie since it's an historical story & also because of the mediocre reviews, I expected to be bored, but my husband wanted to see it & I thought that I would fall asleep watching, as usual, but I was wrong. The movie engaged me from the beginning & even though I knew the ending, the movie was quite captivating & kept me up waiting to see what will happen. A very nice surprise. Also Tom Cruise was great even though I don't care for him much lately he really gave this movie a soul. Well done.
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.
on 8 March 2009
Tom Cruise stars as Colonel Von Staffenberg in this semi-factual account of the most notorious of all wartime plots to assassinate Adolf Hitler and end WWII. Cruise portrays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, a wealthy aristocrat who lost an eye and a hand while fighting for Germany during World War II. Stauffenberg became the key man in a large-scale conspiracy that set out to assassinate the Nazi leader and seize control of the German government. The film's main event is the assassination attempt that took place on July 20, 1944, at the Wolf's Lair; Hitler's Eastern Front military headquarters located in what is now Poland. The film examines the preparation for the assassination, its implementation and the attempted coup that followed. The interest isn't in the final results -- it's the details of what happens along the way that matter.
Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) directs with his trademark economical flair; there is no fat on this movie and the predominantly British cast all acquit themselves well. Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Cranham, Terence Stamp and the ubiquitous Bill Nighy are just some of the accomplished cast, which also features comedian Eddie Izzard in an unusual but inspired piece of casting. The action is sparing but consequently the film's intensity is maintained throughout, as the band of disillusioned conspirators gradually move towards their goal.
Much has been made of Cruise's willingness to participate in this relatively low-key project, and of the director's decision that the actor were to speak in their own accents during the movie. However, I didn't feel that the latter detracted from the power of the performances nor did Cruise seem out of place as the mutilated and enigmatic Staffenburg; in my humble opinion. I was also disturbed but intrigued by the film's historical aspects, as I had little knowledge of the Staffenburg plot or any of its participants prior to watching this film. Critical reception seems to have been mixed, but all I can say is that I would recommend this as an edgy historical thriller, with a decent cast and high production values.
DVD extras include The Valkyrie Legacy', a fairly lengthy documentary from The History Channel. Historians and spokesmen for the German Resistance Memorial Centre talk about the events dramatized in the film. we even hear from two of Von Stauffenberg's children, one of whom was born in a concentration camp.
on 15 June 2014
For anyone not aware of the Valkyrie plot and it's objectives and the outcome I'd particularly recommend this film.
I did know about the plot but I think I've learnt a bit more; I certainly didn't realise there were as many as 15 attempts to assassinate Hitler by Germans.
Even though I had a fair idea what was going to happen I felt the film maintained an element of suspense from beginning to end. Who was going to support the plot and who was going to remain loyal to the Third Reich? These decisions were often made at the very last moment and ultimately tipped the balance.
The film served to show how bureaucratic and inflexible the German chain of command was. Everything had to go through Berlin and the plotters very cleverly used the system to mobilise the reserve army in support.
I'm not usually a great fan of Tom Cruise but the only fault I could find with his performance was that he was inclined to whisper his lines and I couldn't always hear what he was saying. I wasn't overly impressed with David Bamber as Adolf Hitler but in this instance Hitler was only a peripheral character so it didn't really matter.
You have nothing to lose by giving this film a try.
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!
A straightforward telling of the true life story of the last known assassination attempt on Hitler, in 1944, what this movie lacks in surprises it makes up with more than a dash of style.
A stellar cast come together, in a movie with a very traditional feel about it - non showy direction, just telling the story as it was. Tom Cruise is fine as Stauffenberg, with just enough depth to portray the level of charisma the man must surely have had to get as far as he did, and the boldness he must have had to start the whole process with as much confidence as he seems to have had. The rest of the cast is like a who's who of British cinema, reminding the viewer of the classic war movies of old. And the movie really does seem to share a gene pool with those epic war movies recreating real life movies, with the same pros and cons they had. On the plus side, the movie convinces on authenticity. Events appear close to the known facts, without too much embroidering for effect. The budget, though not overblown by today's standards, and fairly small by Cruise' standards, has enough to create some terrific set design - the planes, the settings, the real life locations, and the recreation of the wolf's lair - all help to immerse you in the story. On the minus side, the cast are all worthy, but never outstanding. It's as if they are playing their roles with kid gloves, to be as reverential as possible to people who actually existed. Perhaps with one exception - Bill Nighy portrays the films more ambiguous character, in a role which starts to flesh out some of the anguish that must have been felt building up to what amounted to High Treason. It's a performance which manages to scratch a little beneath the surface of how it would have felt, rather than the bare facts - and yet still treats the character with respect. Other than that, although well told, the movie sticks to facts and avoids any depth.
Kudos to director Bryan Singer then - he has taken a moribund genre (WW II thriller), with a story we know the ending to, and still managed to make something relatively nail biting, and certainly visually satisfying. It's just not got enough depth or originality to join the ranks of the classics.
on 23 November 2012
Looked at simply as a normal thriller this is a perfectly competent though not outstanding production. Even though we know how the story will pan out, there is a reasonable build up of tension, it is all quite well paced and - for the most part - fairly well acted. Cruise would not be most people's first choice to play von stauffenberg but he comes up with a perfectly acceptable performance. For the most part the film steers clear of excessive cliche, the one exception being a pretty excruciating music score which is very intrusive and quite at odds with the reasonably restrained character of the film itself. The film tells the story in a straightforward way and, as an introduction to this famous wartime incident, it works well enough. However, given that many people will know the story already, it doesn't really add anything new. What it doesn't attempt to do is explain what really motivated the plotters to act as they did, which might have made for a much more interesting drama. So, if you're looking for another version of an already well-documented slice of history and which simply tells you what happened. this would seem to fit the bill. If you're looking for something that digs a little deeper; that looks into why these things happened, you'll probably be disappointed.
on 3 August 2013
The story is interesting, we bought it for our son to watch on his PSP as he has become interested in WWII after having a section in his history class about the politics of the war. It's a Hollywood version, true, but the bones of the story are there and that's why we thought it would be of interest to him.
The quality of the display and sound on the PSP is excellent.
There are plenty of reviews about the film which go into detail about the whole background, the acting and every other thing. What we hoped for was a good story our son would enjoy and that's what we got.