Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Imagine if you will, that a year or so ago someone came up to you and said, “they’re making a movie in which Tom Cruise plays a one-eyed Nazi Colonel who plots to assassinate Hitler.” Your reaction could likely have ranged from stunned silence to prolonged laughter. Well, the project came to fruition as is now on screens everywhere. It’s called Valkyrie, and despite any opinions you may have about Tom Cruise, it’s a good film. And as one of the many executive producers of the film, he did something really smart in surrounding himself with exceptionally talented filmmakers and actors.
The film is more than capably directed by Bryan Singer, who helmed the cult classic The Usual Suspects, as well as the big-budget action films X-Men, X-Men 2, and Superman Returns. Singer relies on the script and characters, as opposed to gimmicks, bigger-than-life stunts, and the now-dreaded shakey-cam technique with zigzag editing. Valkyrie plays like a World War II film that might have been made in the 1960s, and that’s a good thing. It has the look and feel of, say, a Dirty Dozen or Heroes of Telemark, and the sets and locations are all right on the money.
Based on the last of fifteen attempted assassinations of Hitler, we all know from history the result of the action taken. In a film like this where the conclusion is not in doubt, the trick is to create interest and suspense, which Singer and company achieve admirably.
The cast is full of great character actors, most of whom are British: Bill Nighy, best known from Love, Actually and Pirates of the Carribean two and three; Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson, never short of wonderful in any film in which he appears; Terence Stamp, who you should recognize as General Zod from the Christopher Reeve Superman movies; the cinematic king of Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh; and comedian-performance artist, and darn good actor, Eddie Izzard. There’s also the fine German actor Thomas Kretchmann as one of the Nazi officers, and Dutch actress Carina von Houten as Cruise’s wife in a few scenes. She is making her American film debut here, and possesses a stunning screen presence.
Working with Bryan Singer for the sixth time in a dual capacity is John Ottman. Not only is he a superb editor, but Ottman also composed the excellent score, the same double-duty he performed on The Usual Suspects, among others. It’s usually the director who gets the glory, but someone who is able to handle two such complicated tasks and do both extremely well, as Ottman does, rates a rousing ovation.
But the question everyone wants answered is, “How is Tom Cruise?” He’s Tom Cruise. He looks like a movie star in a role, and yes, everyone else acts him off the screen, although he’s not bad. But that’s to be expected.
After the box office bombs of the last few years, and all the media attention surrounding his divorce and marriage and other carryings on, Tom Cruise the producer wanted to put Tom Cruise the actor in a movie that everyone thought was doomed to be a failure in order to prove that he is still a movie star and can get people in theatre seats. And it worked. Valkyrie opened on Christmas Day in wide release and grossed much more than the pundits predicted. Tom Cruise proved to the movie industry that he can still deliver the goods.
While it’s not likely to be ranked as one of the all-time great World War II films, Valkyrie is what it is: a well-made, fast-paced, entertaining slice of history.
The PG-13 rated Valkyrie is now showing in a cinebunker near you.