United Artists latest feature film, VALKYRIE, starring Tom Cruise, is a vivid drama based on a true story. This film gives an up close and personal view of the conspiracy to assassinate one of history’s most evil dictators, Adolf Hitler.
Known for his intense action films like Top Gun and the Mission Impossible trilogy, Tom Cruise brings his intensity to Valkyrie as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Wounded in North Africa in May 1943 during World War II, von Stauffenberg returns to Germany a crippled man with a changed view of the war and of the German Nazi leadership.
Approached by a group of conspirators against Hitler and his regime, von Stauffenberg is called upon to use his status as a war hero to get close to Hitler and facilitate the assassination. The short action sequences help to drive home the impact of the task they are undertaking. The plot becomes so complex it includes overthrowing the state police (SS) and hijacking the Berlin reserve army forces all at the same time the explosive goes off, presumably killing Hitler on 20 July 1944. The complexity of the plan is well played out in the film as are the interpersonal relationships. The conspirators in the German Resistance know their actions mean certain death if they are caught, but are resolved to make that sacrifice to stop the atrocities being committed.
The film itself is shot very up-close and personal with the actors. Most of the film is focused to within 3ft which helps to bring out the personal intensity, but also hinders the scenes surroundings. This detracts somewhat from allowing the audience to feel included in the film. The scenes were well played, but I would have liked to see a more developed background to the plot. The movie assumes the audience already knows a decent amount of the historical background, but it should have been included for future generations. I feel that omission is what detracts mainly from this film being of great historical value.
Overall I found this film to be a great portrayal of real events and for the most part historically accurate. The alliteration to Valkyrie in 3 different ways (the definition of Odin’s handmaidens who conducted the souls of the slain “Hitler” to Valhalla, Hitler’s Operation Valkyrie, and Richard Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries musical score), was woven nicely to help cement the title. From the start Valkyrie well shows the indoctrination the German military was subjected to, focused on winning their loyalty for one man, not for the German people as a whole. Alternately, it certainly helped to recover the sacrifices made by the German Resistance during World War II to fight against tyranny, which many people over look today. This film is an example of their voice saying “We are all not like him.”
Steve Terjeson is a military historian dedicated to preserving World War II history. He has founded a website (World War II History http://wwarii.com ) and has reviewed many books and film publications.
Read the full review and see the trailer and making of Valkyrie featurette on our Valkyrie review page!