When I heard Tom Cruise was teaming up with an ensemble cast for a film, directed by Bryan Singer, about an attempted coup within Germany during Hitler’s reign, it sounded like it would be a must-see.
Of course, with so much backlash still out there directed at Tom Cruise (thanks to his couch-jumping, Katie Holmes adoration – and his Church of Scientology beliefs), I thought Valkyrie might not do as well as expected in theaters. Since it came out around Christmas, I decided to wait for the DVD release to discover for myself if smaller crowds were justified, or if Cruise’s personal life had caused many to miss out on a really good film.
The first thing the viewer notices almost from the get-go is the lack of German accents in any of the major characters. While this was played up largely before the film’s release, director Bryan Singer did a good job of melding it into the film, thanks to a slow change from subtitles to English in the beginning of the film, helping put that out of viewers’ minds rather quickly and deftly.
When the viewer first meets Tom Cruise’s character in Valkyrie, he is just the same as he always been – clean cut, fresh-faced – and completely out of place in the rather dusty situation he finds himself in. After an attack, however, his boyish looks are replaced with a missing hand, a few missing fingers and a pitch black eye patch, transforming him – and his character – into a much more hard-edged individual – both from the outward appearance and the way Cruise interprets the character.
Cruise, while hogging most of the spotlight (as usual), gives way a bit in this film to let other talented actors step up to the plate, including a slew of recognizable faces, from Kenneth Branagh to Terrence Stamp. Taken individually, each of these actors is a commanding presence unto themselves, but as a group, they are even more impressive. This ensemble cast is powerful enough to make the viewer hoping it turns out well for them – despite already knowing how things ended up.
Director and cast work excellently together, both by putting the viewer inside Hitler’s Germany and making the viewer forget the events are actually based on a true story. Even though the viewer knows the plan ultimately fails (after all, Hitler was not killed by his own men, he committed suicide), the actors and director pull the viewer so deep into the film, they may find themselves wondering if the plan actually succeeded – and hoping it did.
At one point in the film, Kenneth Branagh’s character Henning von Tresckow says “We have to show the world that not all of us are like him.” Don’t miss this riveting film about their attempt to do just that.