Valkrie (2008) [Yahoo! Movies page]
My rating of Valkyrie (on the Yahoo! Movies rating scale): D+
Cast: Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy, Nobody Else Worth Bothering About
Director: Bryan ‘Superman Returns. Again.’ Singer
Distributed by: MGM
I didn’t watch Valkyrie when it was released in the theatres, primarily due to how silly Tom Cruise looked with that eye patch. I thought the director was just trying to portray Tom Cruise as a wannabe Jack Sparrow rebel, but it turns out that the decision to make him wear an eye patch was for ‘historical accuracy’ reasons. Valkyrie is one of those movies that you never watch in theatre paying for exorbitant popcorn, but catch on television or DVD when it comes out. And I hope that by the end of this review I’ll convince you not to watch this movie even then. There is absolutely no part of the movie which redeems the whole thing and makes you want to forgive and forget.
The movie starts off with the first few minutes in German, switching to English for the sake of audience sanity. Starts off slowly building the story but you’re ready to forgive the film-makers at that point. After all this is such a historically important event. “That touch of gravitas is surely needed”, you say, “for a movie discussing a serious topic. After all, the movie is based on the true story of Operation Valkyrie and the July 20 assassination plot during World War II.” We’re given excruciating details on how von Stauffenberg (Cruise’s character) loses his eye and thus becomes a hotshot officer in the German army. Huh? Excuse me? Anyway, then come the tea parties conspiracy meets where a bunch of disgruntled politicos, army officers and lawnmowers plot to overthrow Hitler. Ah, that brings us to Hitler, who’s been turned into a prop in a movie where he has a major role. The acting of the Hitler Guy is worthy of Hayden Christensen’s level, who has widely been acknowledged as the “closest thing humanity has got to an android actor“.
Moving on, countless meetings are held and it is decided that Stauffenberg will place a briefcase bomb with a powerful explosive near Hitler in a meeting of various army commanders. On successful assassination Operation Valkyrie will commence in which Stauffenberg use his position as The Big Guy in the reserve army to take over Berlin and all regional headquarters. Sounds like swell plan. Except that it isn’t. At the last moment the Hitler meeting is shifted from his concrete bunker (would have compounded blast effect) to a wooden hut. Stauffenberg places the bomb anyway, right beneath Hitler’s crotch. (Hitler, apparently, is quite used to army minions keeping briefcases close to his crotch.) Stauffenberg then hotfoots it away from the bunker. An inside accomplice in BSNL communications division then disconnects all lines to and from Hitler’s bunker (‘the Wolf’s Lair’).
At this point you’re around halfway through the movie. You’re excited that the clear logic has been laid for the actions to follow. “Now there’s a coup at hand, surely this will be exciting?”, you believe. Sadly for you, the Gods have decided to mock you cruelly for daring to watch this movie. There’s a hiccup in the takeover plan when a conspirator poops in his pants and decides not to enact Operation Valkyrie until he gets a certified letter from the morgue proclaiming Hitler’s death. Thankfully Stauffenberg – always omniscient and close to a telephone – reinvigorates the conspirator to carry out the plan (and buy some adult diapers).
From that point onwards the movie is officially dead. Nothing happens other than an assortment of people – mostly our dashing Stauffenberg – making phone calls from one part of Germany to another. Hark, he doesn’t even chop off anyone’s head who disagrees with while saying “Avast, matey!” (it would have gone nicely with the eye-patch theme). I mean, seriously Hollywood. You expect us to cling on to the edge of our seats over people making phone calls? What do you think the element of suspense is – whether or not the lines gets connected? Well, actually it does seem that’s exactly what they thought – because the only ‘conflict’ that happens is when messages start coming from Hitler’s bunker too and the communications department gets confused over whose calls / messages to let through – (supposedly) Hitler’s or Stauffenberg’s. That’s it. There’s a whole bloody coup taking place for chrissake! I half expected Michael Bay to jump out from a corner of the screen and say, “Boo! Gotcha!”, revealing that all of this was a grandiose and over-budgeted advertisement for AT&T.
As you’ve guessed it this bit – and the major bit at that – was mind-numbingly boring. The movie plods with the impish devotion of a toddler trying to stick his wet finger down your ear. I didn’t exactly pay attention but a lot of phone calls were exchanged, telegrams sent etc. Maybe Stauffenberg called his mistress and she hung up on him, or maybe he called one of those teleshopping lines. I don’t really care. The gist basically was that as the day wore on rumours started making the rounds that Hitler was very much alive (with his testicles still attached) and working up a royal fury as to what the eff was going on around him. Cruise keeps on insisting that Hitler would have died, continuing with his phone calls.
This goes on for a while when a general or something his group had imprisoned storms in and informs that the Fuhrer is very much alive. Everyone in the room at this point pisses in their pants and stand in a queue to await the punishment. They’re presented the manly choice of a revolver to end it themselves. Some joker must have asked whether he’d get his one phone call. It’s not shown, although I’m fairly certain it will be there in the Director’s Cut Blu-Ray 5th Anniversary Collector’s Edition when Hollywood feels like ripping us off next year. What ensues on-screen is pure rage where the conspirator’s execution is ordered. In an un-Nazi like manner they aren’t tortured in gas chambers but taken to the backyard and shot.
Valkyrie movie trailer. Wear dark polarized glasses which don’t let any light through when watching this.
Unsurprisingly, critics have praised the movie, necessitated by the fact that they’re batty old fruits (or was it fruity old bats, or old fruit bats?) – just like the movie they’re reviewing. Valkyrie is undoubtedly quite historically accurate (speaking as someone who’s seen Discovery Channel’s documentary on this assassination attempt); as a movie though, it is an utter failure. Valkyrie has an astonishing resemblance to those poorly acted out ‘history mystery movies’ starring Johnathan Rhys-Meyers that Fox History & Entertainment (previously known as The History Channel) shows. The only reason why Valkyrie escapes getting rock-bottom rating on my scale is because (surprising as it may seem) there are movies worse than this which are out there. Waiting, for unsuspecting viewers.
Bottom Line: Get the largest piece of rock you can. Smash Valkyrie DVD to pieces. Or change the channel, as per your case.