Germany, 1943. After sustaining severe injuries during World War II, anti-Nazi German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) is recruited by a secret group of high-ranking officials who believe the country would be better off without Adolf Hitler. Planning to create a new government, they put into motion a daring plan to assassinate the Fuhrer…
As a Nazi bomb-plot thriller, it’s somewhat ironic that Valkyrie never really ignites. Certainly, all the ingredients are there, what with talented filmmaker Bryan Singer at the helm, his Usual Suspects collaborator Christopher McQuarrie co-writing, an intriguing real-life story to draw from, and a top-drawer cast to bring it together. But while capable of generating suspense and tension, Singer’s first non-superhero movie since 1998’s Apt Pupil is sadly less than the sum of its parts. Rarely as thrilling as you want it to be, it’s hard not to come away disappointed.
Not that Valkyrie‘s the dud some were expecting, mind you. Skillfully directed, there are some neat touches (such as the language fade which ‘explains’ why the actors speak English) and a visual flourish worth mentioning (where the camera spins round and synchronises with a spinning record). Moreover, there are a few gripping moments too, such as a climactic sequence where tele-typists have to decide between taking orders from Stauffenberg or Joseph Goebbels (with their resultant actions defining the future of Germany). Of course, we already know the outcome thanks to history (IE, you know they’re not going to succeed and kill Hitler), so it’s to Singer’s credit that we momentarily forget and get caught up in the moment.
A talky, slow-burn affair almost completely unconcerned with set pieces, it requires a more low-key Tom Cruise than we’re used to. Which is fine, since The Cruiser can do steely-jawed intensity in his sleep (which he probably does). Elsewhere, the supporting cast is a smorgasbord of acting pedigree, with the likes of Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Kevin McNally and Tom Hollander all featuring. It’s a shame, then, that the plot-focused script didn’t give them some actual character work to play with.
As a Nazi bomb-plot thriller, it’s somewhat ironic that Valkyrie never really ignites. While it’s capable of generating suspense and tension, Singer’s WWII piece is sadly less than the sum of its parts.