In some respects Valkyrie is a throwback to those big budget war films of the sixties and seventies. In these revisionist times when historical facts are ignored and pandering to target demographics is considered more important, there was a high risk that Valkyrie would be a poor film. However, director Bryan Singer has proven himself to be a thoughtful and thorough film maker with a gift for narrative intrigue. I am happy to say that Valkyrie is a very laudable production and although not an outstanding feature film, it is competently made, broadly historically accurate whilst and entertaining.
The story manges to be genuinely suspenseful and conveys the magnitude of the plotter’s intentions. It efficiently follows the known facts and is not sidetracked into presenting an excess of human sub plots to add needless drama. However, the real threat to each protagonist’s family is clearly presented. It is also assumed that the audience has an adequate knowledge of wartime events and does not make the mistake of trying to show why Hitler should be killed. Nor does it make the standard Hollywood mistake of trying to render the complexities of wartime politics, down to good German versus Bad Nazi.
Now with regard Tom Cruise, I’m not at all interested in his star status, his personal life or his religious beliefs. I have enjoyed his performances in several films in the past and he does not disappoint as Klaus von Stauffenberg. The rest of the ensemble cast works very well. Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and the dignified Terence Stamp are all on top form, although a little underused. Eddie Izzard further demonstrates his acting talents. It should be noted that the mainly British cast do not attempt any stereotype German accent but rather opt for neutral dialogue delivery.
Technically, the production design and accuracy is superb. The atmosphere of the nation losing a war and the “ideology” becoming tarnished is clearly shown. The dilemma of whether to hedge your bets or endeavour to change an impossible situation, is explored efficiently is very thought provoking. Valkyrie remains as politically neutral as it can and strives to show career soldiers unhappy with the regime they see as betraying their country and leading it to near ruin.
It is interesting to see a studio tackle a story that, despite its inherent drama, has an outcome that is well known right from the outset. Like Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, the need to engage the audience with the fate of the characters is key to the films success. I must admit that I was engrossed in Valkyrie and managed to disconnect my mind on the inevitable ending. However, due to the lack of historical knowledge among so many of today’s viewing public, perhaps they may not realise this fact. Because there is now an entire generation that has no immediate connection with World War II, the events depicted in Valkyrie may has less impact. None the less it is an competent and polished movie and a welcome change from standard twenty first century multiplex fodder.