A Valkyrie in Norse mythology was a female spirit that chose the warriors who would die and took them to the hall of the dead-Valhall - where they become einharjar or lone fighters. So it is with solemn history Tom Cruise trots out in the leading role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg ,one of the key players in Operation Valkyrie, the failed plot of July 1944 to assassinate Hitler and Himmler. The question that arises after this film is were the plotters convinced that the Fuhrer belonged in Valhall or did they choose themselves for this suicide mission. Valkyrie has a slow pace and is methodical in relating the story. Cruise does a good job falling in stride and impresses us with his professionalism. All was not well however when the film was to be made because of his personal affiliation with Scientology which many Germans in particular the von Stauffenberg family regard as a totalitarian religion. How ironic is that that Cruise chose to play the man instrumental in the plot to end Hitler's totalitarianism?
The story begins in Tunisia, which is suddenly attacked by fighter planes, and in which von Stauffenberg is wounded. The event hardens him and he is no longer convinced of the viability of the Nazi operation or the sanity of the Fuhrer. It seems to have taken a long time. Cruise stays in character throughout the film with never a slip of emotion and is convincing as one of the insurgents that wants to rid Germany of their demented leader and create a coup d'etat. The historic criticism about Operation Valkyrie is that it came too late when so much damage had been unaccountably done. Von Stauffenberger is the catalyst for the plot by planting a pencil bomb in a summer barrack at Wolf's Lair where Hitler is giving a briefing. Afterwards he quickly exits. The intensity of the bomb makes him sure that Hitler is dead and he spreads the word to his associates. All of the pieces must fall into place and there are many cowards in the plan. The film gives a good picture of the extensive Nazi military chain of command and the many ways that its machinery worked. One of the crucial parts of the assembly line is the telex communication where women work in offices and convey important information to their supervisors. Without the telex and the telephone the plot at Wolf's Lair might have succeeded for it is by word of mouth by von Stauffenberg that he convinces others that Hitler is indeed dead, setting Plan A in motion. Perhaps because of a stiff devotion to the historic events the film feels as chilled and lifeless as the character of von Stauffenberg, a defeated man that no longer believes in what he has been fighting for. David Bamber who plays Hitler gives an intriguing performance as the bungling madman with absolutely no human qualities, subdued and creepy going about his duties as the Fuhrer.
For Movie Magazine this is Moira Sullivan
© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 3/09
USA, Germany - 2008