Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review of Valkyrie

Valkyrie features Tom Cruise as star and producer of a true story about a group of German officers who made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler and launch a government coup over Germany in order to spare the country a more merciful surrender pact with the Allied forces. Despite a few setbacks, Valkyrie is an impressively well-crafted political thriller.

Chief among these setbacks is Tom Cruise, himself, which is somewhat a disappointment because this man has taken a lot of beatings from the press and general public over the last couple of years and I'm usually one of his starch defenders. Cruise doesn't even attempt a German accent and doesn't really inject any personality into the role. It's ridiculously hard to suspend your disbelief and think you're watching anything other than some strange time travelling story of Tom Cruise playing himself inserted into 1944 Germany. But Cruise produced and bankrolled the film and stuck with it through several release date delays, so credit goes to him on that. Fortunately on the acting front, Cruise is surrounded by a really solid cast: Among others, Bill Nighy, Terrence Stamp (My Boss' Daughter, Get Smart), and Tom Wilkinson, fresh off his amazing performance in Michael Clayton last year. Wilkinson's character as a top general with loyalties to Hitler could have been someone you could have built an entire movie around.

As in the X-Men series, director Bryan Singer doesn't just jump into the action but takes his time building suspense, even if the score is annoyingly over-dramatic at parts (it sounded like a horror film). If you're expecting an action film, you're bound to be disappointed. It's more of a backdoor political piece that reminded me a little bit of The Contender. For the first half of the film, Cruise is just going from Nazi official to Nazi official trying to find the right allies and gather signatures to enact his grandiose plan. The payoff is well-worth it, however. It's thought-provoking, tragic, and well-shot.