Friday, January 23, 2009

VALKRYIE - superficial conspiracy procedural

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.

1 comment:

  1. You know, this movie pissed me right off. I went to see it not having seen a trailer or review or ad or anything else; it was only the second or third film I've managed to see since Kolya was born, so I haven't exactly been immersed in the stream of coming-releases etc. Point is, coming into this one cold, with no hype or background, it was dull and predictable. By 45 minutes in, I'd mentally scripted each line before it came out of the characters' mouths, and was just itching to walk out. So I did. Except the three people I was there with all stayed to the end, and emerged tearstained and shaken. So then I spent the next three days wondering how a movie quite so dreadful for the first half had redeemed itself so convincingly. I even contemplated going and enduring that terrible first half again just out of curiosity. But having read your review, I think perhaps I'll read the book instead...