So Tom Cruise has decided to put all of his production money & swagger into what seems to be Bryan Singer's biggest effort since X-men [we'll just pretend Superman Returns didn't happen]. What is most interesting in Valkyrie from the get-go would be the amazing cast. Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp all staples in British cinema deliver solid performances in this film. People who seem to be almost unrecognizable in their roles would be: Eddie Izzard, who plays Gen. Erich Fellgiebel and David Bamber, who [no-offense] visually could be a carbon copy of the very real and dead Adolf Hitler [which reminds me, isn't Hollywood dying for a zombie Hitler trilogy series?]
Visually, the movie looks as stunning as it could be given the content and locations. Essentially the cinematography worked the best it could given two backdrops: a miscellaneous Northern African city [which is mostly browns and dark greens] and Berlin, Germany in the winter [which is mostly whites and grays]. This will more than likely be the high point of the movie. Newton Thomas Sigel, director of photography, should bear some of the brunt for how this movie looks he's come a long way from Blankman and Foxfire [oddly enough...two movies that have a special place in my heart].
And now the ugly. What you will notice most about Valkyrie, you know the movie that is supposed to 'save Tom Cruise's production career' is the lack of what is usually deemed automatics for WWII movies. There are little to no battle scenes with the opposition [or any opposition]. This gets a pass seeing as the story of Valkyrie is centered around a conspiracy from within Hitler's inner circle of generals. There are no Jews or any depiction of internment camps in Valkyrie considering the setting of this film is post-'cleansing' of Jews and most others who did not subscribe to the Nazi regime. It gets a tenative pass if you the viewer are willing to buy into these conventions.
However, the most jarring would not only be the lack of Germans in the film centered around Hitler's [very much German] inner circle, but the lack of German language or German accents. As a viewer, I was semi-okay with a predominantly British cast. The talent within this cast suggested that these actors would at least 'act German'. Given the attention to detail with wardrobe, architecture and chronology in the film, why skimp on this tidbit of authenticity?
Tom Cruise has to be this mediocre piece of cinema's biggest black eye. He speaks German for almost exactly two minutes during the beginning of the movie [pre-titular line]. To make matters worse, Cruise is playing, Claus von Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg was a stoic colonel who lost his hand, two fingers, and most notably his eye in an air bombing attack while in Northern Africa. Cruise exerts no effort in conveying the spirit of what Stauffenberg once was; an intelligent, loyal, hard nosed hero of Germany. Instead Cruise delivers a tame imitation of the character in which Valkyrie is centered around. Director Bryan Singer, unfortunately adds insult to injury by allowing the climax of the film to be delivered with the most riveting phone call conversations [since soon-to-be-added-to-the-Criterion Collection "One Missed Call"]. Whoever was responsible for the CGI in this movie needs a refresher course in how a fake eye looks in the human head. In some scenes Cruise is reading and both his eyes are moving, which wouldn't be so garish if there wasn't a scene just before that where the camera zooms in on a CG'd motionless fake eyeball.
After an hour and a half of dry dialog, a snails paced plot, and perfectly cued "my God" takes you kind of root for the Nazi's after while. Shameful to say, but it takes a special kind of movie to make a black man root for Adolf Hitler. Thank you Valkyrie, thank you.
In the spirit of the holidays I give this movie: