Now I personally am a big enough fan of both Tom Cruise and director Bryan Singer (of “The Usual Suspects”, the X-Men series and “Superman Returns”) that I didn’t require too much more to get me interested in “Valkyrie”. However, ever since just before the Oscar Awards this year, all the news that I heard about the movie, and the fact that it was a WW-II movie pretty much made it mandatory that I caught this movie before it became too old and too cold (read ‘not hot news anymore’ kind of cold).
The movie deals with actual events depicting a plot by some German Army officer to assassinate Adolf Hitler during 1944, the fag end of WW-II. The group of officers planned to use the Operation Valkyrie national emergency plan to take control of the country after killing Hitler to ensure that the remaining Nazi officers don’t continue what the Fuherer had started. Now if that isn’t exciting enough a theme to make a movie with, here’s a sampling of some of the star-performers that this movie boasts of – Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Terence Stamp, all wonderful actors and performers in their own right, coming together to form one of the most formidable ensemble casts assembled for a movie in recent times.
The story primarily revolves around Stauffenberg’s disillusionment with Hitler and his treatment of the German Army in general, and his genocidal attitude towards millions of Jews. When Stauffenberg is injured in Tunisia, North Africa where he loses two fingers and an eye, he is then transferred to German Army Headquarters in Berlin, where he encounters a secret committee consisting of politicians, German army officers and other Government servants who have been secretly plotting to assassinate Hitler, albeit unsuccessfully so far. His first meeting with the committee doesn’t quite sit well with the ‘powers-that-be’ who are reasonably offended by his open criticism of the methods tried by them to get rid of Hitler. However, when he comes up with the concept behind Operation Valkyrie, and is crystal clear with the view that it wouldn’t be enough just to kill Hitler, but also necessary to nullify the effect of the Nazi Secret Service, the committee is convinced that Stauffenberg just might be the right person to achieve their long nurtured goal.
Von Stauffenberg then uses his position in the German Army HQ to carefully redraft Operation Valkyrie to give more powers to the Reserve Army, making it more conducive for them to dismantle the entire Nazi regime after killing Hitler, by overthrowing the SS and imprisoning Hitler’s closest advisors. How and whether Stauffenberg succeeds in executing Operation Valkyrie successfully is something that makes up the rest of the movie. Some of the most interesting bits of the movie involve how Stauffenberg enlists the support of other army officers, how he plans out the entire sequence of events, how he puts things in motion. I am unwilling to disclose anything more about the movie for the fear that it might just give away too much, which in this case would pretty much spoil the entire movie viewing experience.
One damp squib about the movie is the fact that it doesn’t dwell enough on Von Stauffenberg’s bitterness towards the Fuherer. The audience will probably fail to understand what exactly it is that drives this German patriot against one leader whose stated ambition it was to make the Fatherland, the ruler of all Europe, and possibly the entire world. That is something that baffles me to date as to what it is that drove this German Officer to pretty much put everything at stake just to ensure that Hitler was assassinated, and Germany was rid of him.
What works for this movie is the taut screenplay, the awesome ensemble cast all of whom put in competent performances, the setting of the movie – WW-II Germany, the fact that it tries to tell an unconventional story of how a handful of Germans tried to set right some of the wrongs committed by their leaders, Bryan Singer’s masterful treatment of this subject, and above all Tom Cruise’s portrayal of Claus Von Stauffenberg. This probably would rate high up there as one of the best performances of his career so far.
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