(No longer in theaters)
Bryan Singer, Christopher McQuarrie
Dec 25, 2008
So German TV was interviewing me last week about Valkyrie: Do Americans, I was asked, know that the German people are extremely upset that one of their national heroes, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who devised a daring plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the summer of ’44, is being embodied onscreen by a … a … Scientologist? No, I said, we didn’t know the Fatherland was up in arms, but … if I may say … It’s probably not a good idea for the German people in this particular instance to get all exercised over someone’s religion. I’m just sayin’. Anyway, Valkyrie is a two-hour monument to the self-sacrifice of German soldiers under the Third Reich. Doesn’t casting Tom Cruise ensure its message will be heard around the world—especially in countries that hate Nazis more than Scientologists? Germany should be delighted. Even if they can count the number of actual Germans in the film on one hand, haven’t movie Nazis been a lovely reparation for the Battle of Britain? The number of U.K. actors employed every year (especially here, with Nazis galore) is a gift that keeps on giving to the British theater.
The movie itself is nowhere near as embarrassing as early reports suggested. Directed by Bryan Singer in a break from his gayish superhero movies, it’s a low-key procedural with a dollop of suspense—although perhaps not enough to make up for the foregone conclusion. After an ill-advised prologue in which Cruise speaks the actual language (much mirth among the German TV folks!), the star reverts to his standard middle-American tones; he looks stalwart and unfussy in his crisp uniform with his cute little eye patch. The Brits who scurry around him—Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp—never convince us they wouldn’t rather have a pint of bitter over a stein of helles and some wurst, but they go through the “Heil Hitler” motions with stiff upper lips. Valkyrie doesn’t whip you up like that Jewish vigilante avenger picture Defiance, but in this season of throat-grabbing Holocaust movies, its gentlemanliness is most welcome.