VALKYRIE is a straightforward conspiracy procedural about Claus von Stauffenberg's failed assassination of Hitler and anti-Nazi coup. Given that we all know the bare bones of the story, it's laudable that writer Chris McQuarrie and director Bryan Singer manage to sustain tension. Indeed, when Stauffenberg gets back to Berlin, convinced that Hitler is dead, and starts convincing territories to join his cause, I almost believed that the SS might capitulate to the sheer force of Tom Cruise's personality. In particular, I really like the fact that McQuarrie manages to open up the movie from being about an assassination to the wholesale seizure of power - a far more difficult feat.
Where the movie fails is in its ham-fisted, clumsy dialogue. Lines like, "To understand National Socialism, you must understand Wagner". The movie also has a tendency to slip into kitsch. Note the fetishistic treatment of Stauffenberg's glass eye. Would Stauffenberg really have put his glass eye into a glass of whisky to summon the attention of Fellgiebel?
I was also a bit disappointed that Singer didn't have more ambition. To say that this movie basically succeeds as a B-movie is to admit that Singer hasn't even bothered to make a more psychologically involved film. After all, the key point of this movie is that in a country where decision-makers were too self-interested, weak-willed, callow and drunk on power and ideology to make a stand; a small group of men did. Why them? Yes, Singer and McQuarrie do hint at Stauffenberg's faith as a driver, but what about his sense of obligation as an aristocrat or his political views? This movie raises more questions than it answers.
VALKRYIE is on release in the US. It opens on January 22nd in Australia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea and the UK. It opens on January 28th in Belgium, France, Russia, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. It opens on February 12th in Egypt, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Singapore, Brazil, Estonia and Poland. It opens on February 20th in Denmark; February 27th in Italy; March 12th in Croatia; and March 20th in Japan.