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 Bryan Singer's Valkyrie

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Bryan Singer's Valkyrie   Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:50 pm

During Hitler's time in power as Führer and Chancellor of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. There were no less than 20 assassination attempts made on his life, but the last major attempt of assassination was the beginning of the end of his time in power. He would become paranoid and withdraw to a bunker for the last 10 days of his life in April 1945. The final assassination attempt on his life has always been of great interest to filmmakers and historians, they were known to many as the July 20th Plot. It was a plot by the German Resistance, which by now had many high ranking Nazi officers working in co-operation with them, to dispose of Hitler and take control again of Germany. The resistance would take advantage of an emergency plan known as Operation Valkyrie, to be used only when Allied attacks had got so bad, there was no other altenative. The plot against Hitler's life was made into a few films before, including The Night of the Generals (1967) and The Plot to Kill Hitler (1990). But now, it's the turn of director Bryan Singer, who has touched upon Nazi's before in his career, before he turned to superhero films, Singer made the hugely underrated Apt Pupil (1998), based on a Stephen King short story. Even at the start of X-Men (2000), it portrays Magneto has a victim of the Holocaust. But now, Singer is ready to take the subject of Nazi's much more seriously. Valkyrie is a much better film than alot of critics make out. True, it is slow at first, but it builds up momentum, and you'll be gripped by the end of the film.

Valkyrie begins in Tunisia, where Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is stationed. He is severely wounded when the Allied forces attack. Stauffenberg loses his left eye, his right hand and two fingers of his left hand, and is sent hom to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, there is a resistance being led by Major General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) to assassinate Hitler, after it fails, and one of their men is arrested, they need a replacement, so they turn to Stauffenberg, who has lost faith for his country and leader. He agrees to join this resistance, which also consists of General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy), General Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), Dr. Carl Goerdeler (Kevin McNally), and Erwin von Witzleben (David Schofield), with no immediate plan, Stauffenberg decides to use Operation Valkyrie to help bring down the Nazi Regime after Hitler has been assassinated. But, they have to get past General Fromm (Tom Wilkinson), who can initiate Operation Valkyrie, and they need to get Hitler (played by David Bamber), to sign to the plan, which they do. Stauffenberg also gets help from explosives expert Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim (Christian Berkel) and communications General Eric Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard). The target is set for Hitler's secret military headquarters Wolf's Lair, deep in Poland. After one false run on July 15th, they try again, 5 days later on July 20th 1944.

It's difficult enough to make a World War II film, but it's more difficult when you're tackling something as controversial as the Nazi side. Even to some people in Germany, the subject of Nazi's is still a taboo subject, and it took a lot of convincing the German government to make this film in Germany. But, it's a film that wants to show that not everyone agreed with Hitler's morales and views, and even towards the end of the war, as the German's were slowly being beaten by the Allied forces, Nazi's were starting to lose faith in the ability of whether or not they could win. But, it's not a film sympathising with the Nazi's, it's not taking their side. It shows a few were becoming disillusioned with the Führer's vision of a perfect Germany, he had bitten off more than he could chew, and now he needed disposed off, for the good of all Germany.

Singer creates a taut, tight mood throughout the film, but he tackles the subject by bringing alot of suspense to the piece, and although alot of people will already know the outcome of the plot, it will have you on the edge of your seat by the end of the film, just to see how the whole saga unfolds. Singer has a good visual eye, and he gets the best out of his cast, and the film looks beautiful. Kudos especially goes to his usual cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. Who contrasts between high-key photography when the plotting is in motion as well as the plan, and then using hand-held when our heroic plotters are being tracked down by the Nazi's. It captures it's era well, but keeps it focused without having to go for big epic set pieces all of the time, it's a very contained suspense piece.

Casting proved to be controversial, the film was set up at United Artists, recently bought by Tom Cruise, and this was a project he took great interest in, the idea for a film of the plot was first discussed by Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie back in the 1980's. But, Singer felt Cruise would be a good choice for Col. Stauffenberg, and he was right. Cruise gives a good performance, but this is a man still shell-shocked by the horror of war, and even whilst the plot is in effect, he is defiant to the end, but he keeps his emotions in check. But, the supporting cast are more compelling, including high class British talent Nighy, Branagh, Stamp, McNally, Wilkinson and Izzard. Who all act within their natural accents, no German accents to be heard within this film, (unless it's done by a German actor). But, it sounds more natural, and it represents the conspirators defiance against Hitler.

But, despite any such flaws that it takes a while to get going, it is a very good film on the whole. It's does take it's subject seriously, and it feels authentic, bar the accents. But, it could have been better. It was attacked by critics who hadn't even seen it, but their criticisms were wrong. The film isn't the disaster alot of people make out to be, but it is a interesting and suspenseful take on a famous plot to kill Hitler, which would be the first nail in his coffin.



Whilst Cruise's performance is good, (nothing to write home about at the end of the day), it's Singer's direction that gives the film it's gripping edge. It has good intentions and it delivers. It is well made, and the best parts come in from the supporting players, and maybe the film could have worked better had the focus been towards them, but Stauffenberg was the one determined to see that the plan worked. But, it does make a change from the recent war films that we've had, and it is a brave move to make a Hollywood film focusing on political turmoil within the enemies government. It is a gamble that has paid off, only just. But, it will take another viewing to determine whether it's one of Singer's best, but it's good to see him back doing "straight filmmaking" after X-Men and Superman, but it would be good to see him do something like this again...
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PostSubject: Re: Bryan Singer's Valkyrie   Sat Mar 14, 2009 2:52 pm

It's out on DVD over here on June 8th, and it's a Special Edition DVD too!! The features include...

Commentary by Tom Cruise, Bryan Singer, and Christopher McQuarrie

Commentary by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander

Featurettes:

The Journey to Valkyrie
The Road to Resistance: A Visual Guide
The African Front Sequence
Taking to the Air
Recreating Berlin
92nd Street Y: Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer
The Valkyrie Legacy


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