Sunday, January 18, 2009

Valkyrie **


Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Tom Cruise
Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Carice van Houten
Thomas Kretschmann, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard

It takes but a slight knowledge of history to know how "Valkyrie" will end. The film chronicles the attempt to kill Adolf Hitler led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) on July 20th 1944.
Teaming with high rank members of the German Army Stauffenberg planned a coup that would use the Fuhrer's very own "Operation Valkyrie" to take over Germany and make a truce with the Allies putting an end to World War II.
When the key members of the army are played by character actors like Branagh, Stamp and Nighy the idea of the kind of prestige drama this could amount to would get any film lover salivating.
But when this remarkable team is led by Tom Cruise, it works in a completely different way. Not even attempting to have a German accent, Cruise doesn't make a clown out of von Staffenberg, because we never even get to see past the actor playing him.
Whenever Cruise tries to be serious and muster some sort of gravitas, all we really see is Tom Cruise wearing an eyepatch and trying to kill Hitler.
Rarely has the public perception of an actor affected so much the outcome of an entire movie, but it seems that deep down Cruise has come to terms with the fact that he's a movie star and if you stop taking the film as a serious historical piece and choose to view it as an action thriller the results can be obscenely entertaining.
Singer, who directs like a stock filmmaker under the studio system, just goes with the flow and lets his star shine.
The director's meticulousness is outstanding in the small flashes he let's us see, like the care he has taken in showing us bureaucratic and logistic methods of the era.
Since there is absolutely no regard for character growth and background, scenes with extras and unknown actors in small roles showing the chilling efficiency of the Nazi regime make for a treat.
Singer choreographs the action sequences with just as much care, giving the plot an actual tension even if you know how everything will end.
"Valkyrie" often plays out like an appointed B movie made for propagandistic reasons, after all movie stars were used to draft people during WWII and watching Tom Cruise battling the Nazis, although preposterous and somewhat disrespectful, still is able to engage the audience on a primal level.
When it comes to entertainment "Valkyrie" is an effective, if inconsequential, accomplished mission, as cinema it stays merely as a drill.

3 comments:

Luis Blasini said...

I really did enjoy this picture. And your right - about the ending. But, then again how did you expect it to end without trailing from historical fact. Yup, guess I'll buy the DVD when it emerges next month.

Oh, Jose! For your personal pleasure check out the Japanese film "Big Bang Love,Juvenile A" - cerebraly interesting.

Michael Parsons said...

I love the fact that you will go out and see the movies I refuse to.

I am a prisoner of reviews, a whore to critics.

Jose said...

Hahaha well, someone has to do the dirty job.
Fortunately going to the movies is still kinda cheap here so I can afford to go see trash and write about it.