If ever there was a film with some serious talent involved its Valkyrie. Directed by Bryan Singer, he of The Usual Suspects fame, and starring the cream of British talent on paper it looks as foolproof as the bomb plan to kill Hitler devised by eyepatch-wearing Nazi with a heart of gold, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (The Cruise himself). In practice, however, the film never really lives up to its electric premise, despite being a competently enjoyable thriller.
Based on a true story, Cruise’s good Count is a disillusioned German army officer who opts to try and save Germany from the Nazis by teaming up with a gang of powerful dissenters (Bill Nighy, Kenneth Brannagh, Kevin McNally and Terrance Stamp) with some rather… explosive plans (thank you, I’m here all week).
Valkyrie reaches its peak about halfway through its running time, when the plan to kill Hitler is actually being put into practice in the Wolf’s Lair. This segment of the film is tense, well-acted and thoroughly riveting. However, as soon as the bomb itself goes off Valkyrie slips into a lull which lasts until the film’s final few minutes, mostly comprising of Cruise sitting at a desk making telephone calls whilst the German army drives aimlessly around Berlin. This is, in all honesty, a tremendous anticlimax.
Likewise, the film feels terrifically rushed in its first half. No attention is paid to the reasons behind von Staffenberg’s staunch disillusionment with the Nazi regime, it is simply asserted onto the audience by a somewhat anvilicious piece of narration. Before you know it, Cruise has lost a hand and an eye and is darting around Germany looking for others fed up with the Fuhrer. One feels a slight shift in attention to von Stauffenberg himself may well have given proceedings far more weight.
Valkyrie is not a bad film by any stretch of the word, however one can’t shake the feeling that it lets itself down in places. Bolstered by a fine roster of British character actors (including, of all people, surrealist comedian Eddie Izzard), when Valkyrie flies it soars, however it is weighed down by a soggy second half.