With Germany picking the scab of their own dark past cinematically in the form of Downfall, it seems to have given the green light for WWII to be explored with subtlety rather than jingoism by the Americans.
Based on a true account of one of the many attempts on Hitler’s life by his own people, it explores the idea that not all the Nazis were rotters, a variation on the "they were just following orders" notion.
Having served on the frontline in Africa, Colonel von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) develops a keen sense of the problems with Hitler’s rule before being sent home as a casualty after an Allied attack. Coming to terms with his injuries sharpens his resentment to what the Fuhrer has done to his country, driving him to restore the homeland to its former glory.
Similarly minded, a group of politicians and military leaders are licking their wounds after another planned assassination attempt on Adolf has been thwarted. Enlisting Stauffenberg into the conspiratorial gang, the clan embark on their boldest and most daring attempt yet, aiming to kill Hitler, seize power and negotiate a truce with the Allies.
Valkyrie is undeniably tense, tinged with tragedy, mainly due to the outcome being pretty apparent from the off. Cruise sits atop a solid cast, mainly of British actors, who bring that depth of character required. As it becomes more apparent that their Project Valkyrie hasn’t gone to plan, the film takes on an even greater sadness, fuelled by the nobility of the German rebels, but ultimately it seems to fails to fulfil its potential.
While based on a true story, Valkyrie seems to concentrate on the politicking of the situation, missing out on the human sacrifice and suffering that spurs them. Though worthy in concept, it appears frightened to make members of the Nazi party out to be heroes to any traditional degree; their actions feel almost part of a routine.
The group’s behaviour is clipped, deprived of any characterisation that would allow us to truly empathise with them, though Nighy and Tom Wilkinson do a superb job of implying the turmoil that lies below the surface. Surface tension is all we’re left with, which sadly leaves Valkyrie left in no-man’s land.
Neither as emotive or as action-packed as it perhaps could have been, Valkyrie is solid entertainment, if perhaps sadly not as inspiring as it could have been.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Brannagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp.
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Extras: featurettes, commentaries