Reviewed on 2009 January 5
I have to admit, I was conflicted about seeing this movie. I am kind of a history buff; couple that with my unbridled hatred of all things Nazi, and a fact-based movie about a plot to kill Hitler should be a great way to spend 120 minutes. The problem was that I had a hard time picturing Tom Cruise in the lead. I just couldn’t see him in the role of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. I decided to go see it anyway, thinking the historical aspect and seeing people even try to snuff a monster like der Fuhrer would outweigh any drawbacks. They would have, but as it turns out Cruise did a good job.
The movie starts out with a block of German text, sinuously turning to English and reminding us this is based on actual events. After a Tom Clancy-esque transition from spoken German to English, Stauffenberg’s reservations about Hitler come pouring out, written in a letter to his wife while in Tunisia. He knows Hitler is the last thing Germany needs right now, and the injuries he suffers in Africa strengthen his resolve to do something about it. One problem is recruiting enough people for a coup from amongst the mindless goose-steppers who would just go running to Hitler.
He finds several people willing to fight with him, including Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), who has no qualms about being the one to actually do the job. After much arguing between people like Tresckow and General Friedrich Fromm (Bill Nighy), they decide to take advantage of an emergency plan already familiar to Hilter: Valkyrie. This was a blueprint, Fuhrer-approved at that, for how to deal with Germany in the event of Adolf’s death. If they can make that happen, they can take over from the inside.
I think part of the problem is people are so used to seeing the cocky, unflappable Tom Cruise from things like A Few Good Men, it’s just odd to see him as the brooding Stauffenberg. At one point when it looks like Walküre may be a success his face even wears a holy-crap-we-did-it grin instead of a smirk, and it convinced me. The thing that really amazed me from a historical standpoint was the fact that despite the fact that Valkyrie needed more ingredients to work than a Martha Stewart wedding cake, for a while the men and women in on it thought they could pull it off. It’s a fascinating story, and director Bryan Singer told it well.
Three chocolate morsels and some Bavarian coffee.