Valkyrie

Tom Cruise's anxiously anticipated performance as Hitler’s would be assassin pales in the face of history.

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After well-publicised production problems and numerous delayed release dates, the latest film by Bryan Singer (of Usual Suspects and Superman fame) has finally arrived on the big screen.

The star-studded WW2 epic, Valkyrie chronicles the birth of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, conceived by a group of men placed in the highest echelons of the power. This nail biting, yet little-known story from history opens with a voiceover from German army officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Tom Cruise of Scientology fame), which begins in German before somewhat bizarrely cross fading into English.

The action begins in Tunisia in 1943, where Stauffenberg is wounded in combat  (losing an eye and seven fingers), but soon moves to Berlin, where the officer is recruited into the German Resistance. Operation Valkyrie is then devised in the hope of ending the war amicably and saving thousands of lives. Despite knowing from the outset how the film will conclude, the mood remains taut and tense throughout, particularly in the last hour, and the thriller is supported by some of the finest British thesps around – Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard… naturally.

Among this truly stellar cast it is almost easy to overlook the film as simply another Tom Cruise vehicle. Sure, his performance as Stauffenberg is commendable but he has played this type of brave, moral and devoted family man time and time again. It is also hard not to view Valkyrie without a certain amount of cynicism, considering it comes in the shadow of 2005’s masterpiece Downfall, which similarly portrayed Hitler’s final months.  

Although finely acted, Valkyie would no doubt have benefited from the inclusion of some lesser-known actors. With such hugely recognisable faces on-screen it is quite a struggle to truly believe that this authentically represents a historical event. So, what could have been a stunning accomplishment for all parties concerned is somewhat stifled by a feeling that you can never truly immerse yourself in the action. If only Cruise had maintained that German accent.

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