From the moment that Tom Cruise read the opening narration, in German, I could tell that this was not going to paint Nazi’s in the light that we’re used to. Considered the most evil regime in the past 100 years, we’ve all heard about the atrocities of Hitler’s Germany. But what we may not have learned in history class is the fact that not all Nazis were filled with the hatred and disdain that consumed Hitler. There were Germans and Nazis that didn’t agree with Hitler and some of them actually tried to stand up against him. One such Nazi was Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, played to perfection by Tom Cruise.
I find it funny that the film’s controversy centered on the Germans being upset that Tom Cruise was playing one of their heroes. I understand that many don’t agree with his religion of choice or some of his personal decisions, but there’s no one I would want to portray my hero on the big screen than Tom Cruise. Say what you want about the man, but he’s still one of the best actors working today and there are few actors that have as commanding of a screen presence as Mr. Cruise. He consumed the role of Stauffenberg with a passion and combined with the talented storytelling of Bryan Singer, they crafted an intensely satisfying drama about a little known point in history.
After suffering severe injuries that required the removal of his left eye and right hand, Stauffenberg returns to Germany to take a desk job. Despite being a great soldier, he’s known more for his distaste of Hitler. This gets the attention of Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) and he’s quickly recruited into a small, secretive group of soldiers and politicians that are attempting to overthrow Hitler. It doesn’t take long for Stauffenberg to assert himself and after proposing Operation Valkyrie, they quickly appoint him leader of the military operations for their movement. Now, all he has to do is kill Hitler and overthrow the SS.
Since we all took a 7th grade history class, we all know how this ends. So I was skeptical that the intensity would be hard to generate since we know Operation Valkyrie failed. But Singer crafted a wonderful story that was intense from start to finish. From the very beginning, we’re on board with Stauffenberg, even though we know it won’t end well for him. That’s not only a credit to Singer, but to Tom Cruise as well. With a less captivating actor, we wouldn’t have become as entranced and it would’ve been easy to lose interest. The point of the film isn’t the ending, but the ride to get there.
VALKYRIE is not an action-packed film, or a serious, soul searching drama. It’s just an intense drama/action (dramaction?) film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Everyone turns in amazing performances and the movie speeds along so fast that it never giving you time to recuperate from one moment to the next. It’s a good time and it’s nice to see a film that reminds people that not all Germans were named Hitler.