A top notch performance from Tom Cruise, a stellar ensemble cast and Brian Singer's excellent direction make Valkyrie a must-see flick.
Valkyrie is the story of Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise) and the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler at the height of World War II.
Stauffenberg is injured during Allied bombing in Northern Africa, losing his right hand, two fingers of his left and his left eye. He returns to Berlin after mending and sets to work in the Bendlerblock.
After another failed assassination attempt by the German Resistance, Stauffenberg is recruited and ultimately conceives of the plan to finally take out the Führer. The Resistance would use a plan, signed off by Hitler, which would allow them to use the Reserve Army to seize control and take back their Germany.
What makes the new plan so harrowing is that to initiate their plan, code named Valkyrie, Hitler must be killed. That job falls to Stauffenberg, who must smuggle in a bomb to the compound called The Wolf's Lair, dispose of the explosive and make it back to Berlin to make sure the plan runs smoothly.
Their plan goes anything but smooth.
What stands out in this film is the direction of Singer and the extraordinary editing talents of Jon Ottman, who also served as the film's composer. Ottman's talents are exhibited in the final scenes of the movie after the plan is in effect, its beginning success and ultimate failure. The images move at breakneck speed and give the viewer the sense of urgency that the characters are experiencing.
Cruise leads an impressive cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp and Eddie Izzard.
Cruise is on top of his game in Valkyrie. It's become fashionable for Cruise to be the punchline of jokes, but the truth is, the actor has been delivering some of the weightiest roles of his career in recent years. Cruise has one of the coldest stares in the business and uses it to his advantage.
The weakest part of the movie is the intimacy of Stauffenberg and his family. In an effort to get to the meat of the story, Singer spends little time on these scenes and misses out on a chance for the viewer to connect with the character on that level.
The DVD comes with a Ken Burns directed documentary, a behind the scenes featurette and two unbelievably cool commentary tracks. In one commentary with Cruise, Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, the filmmaker and star do a great job of letting us know where the film deviates from history and gives insight into the coincidences that happened during filming.
Final Cut: Valkyrie gives insight into a not widely know area of German history. It's an important story that is impressively conceived and equally as impressively executed. A great watch.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Starring: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp
Director: Brian Singer
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language
The Journey to Valkyrie featurette
The Valkyrie Legacy: A Ken Burns documentary
Two audio commentaries
Available now on DVD and Blu-ray