Thursday, 29 January 2009


There is a lot riding on Christopher McQuarrie and Bryan Singer’s new movie.

The last time the pair joined forces one of the most complex and intelligent crime capers of all time, The Usual Suspects was born – a film, which 15 years after its release date, still has movie fans debating the identity of Keyser Söze.

Valkyrie certainly won’t have that lasting effect, but it certainly is a good attempt at bringing a true-life story to the big screen.

Set in Germany during WW2, the story centres around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), a proud and loyal officer, who after losing his right arm, an eye and two left fingers in an air attack at a camp in Africa joins the German resistance to overthrow Hitler – the final of 15 attempts on the dictator’s life.

Armed with a cunning strategy to use Hitler’s own emergency plan – known as Operation Valkyrie – the men plot to assassinate the Fuehrer, overthrow the Nazi Government and take control of Berlin.

Valkyrie is a slow movie, at times, tedious, but when the action arrives and the assassination plan is hatched, then it’s hard not to warm to this courageous story.

The cast are just as impressive with performances by Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp and most notably Tom Wilkinson keeping the plot ticking along at an amicable speed.

Critics have blasted the lack of German accents – with all but one cast member, David Bamber as Hitler, using their native tongues.

But this is certainly not the film’s main concern.

The real concern lies in the script – not enough time is spent establishing characters, especially Stauffenberg. All we get is a snapshot of his family life and a truly wasted performance by Carice van Houten as Cruise’s wife.

The plot is also very one dimensional - with little time spent showing the state of Germany during 1944 or the brutality that Hitler inflicted.

Nevertheless, it is a great tale bought to life by Singer’s atmospheric direction, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography and some top-notch British performances.

It is just unfortunate that the same writer and director behind The Usual Suspects chose Valkyrie as their reunion project.

Rating: * * *

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