I was on the fence about seeing the new Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie. I’m kind of on the fence about Cruise, and not just because the one time I saw him, he kept shooting me dirty looks. (OK, in fairness, I kept sorta staring at him like, “Who the hell is this little guy?” But I digress.) But as an actor, I don’t find him particularly compelling. The exceptions are his under-rated performance in Rain Man–I thought he was better in that than Hoffman by a long-shot and, uh, oh, yeah, he was great in Tropical Thunder. Oh, yeah, I liked him in Risky Business, too. (He was good in Magnolia but it almost felt like a rehash of his Rain Man character.)
He seems callow to me, even after all these years.
But I don’t dislike the guy, and he has some fine moments in this film about Germans who set out to kill Hitler–and actually more significantly, overthrow the National Socialist government.
I don’t buy the rather silly argument that since we know how this turns out, it has no potential to be an interesting movie. We know that the Titanic sank, yet the movie made over a billion dollars. Whatever the Hindenburg’s movie’s problems were, knowing that it was going to blow up was not one of them.
There are several hundred miles worth of film coming out in the next few weeks all dedicated to WWII, and we know how that event turns out, too.
Silly argument. And, in fact, director Bryan Singer does a great job handling the issue. You do wonder, at more than a few points, whether they’re going to be able to pull it off, and while it’s in progress, there are times when it seems like they can’t fail.
In fact, the plotting and execution of the plot is quite good, but it felt like the movie was waiting to get started up to that point. Stauffenberg is a difficult character to write and play, and the opening character development is sort of hit-and-miss. Obviously, the guy was a bit of a bad-ass, and cool as ice, something Cruise does pretty well. The other side, the more emotional, father, husband, human, is also hit-and-miss, though particularly good during the “let’s kill Hitler” and less so during the family scenes.
I found myself, overall, less engaged than I wanted to be. I was distracted by the timeline, for example, since the plot takes place about nine months before the war ended and I kept wondering if it would really help much taking Hitler out when the horse was sorta out of the barn already. (Though a lot of the worst stuff happened at the end of the war.)
I was also distracted by wondering if, at this point, more English-speaking people had played Nazis than there had ever been actual Nazis. The accents are all over the place. Cruise stays American but most of the rest of the cast is English. Except his wife, who is Dutch. Also his secretary. (Both actresses from Black Book.) Some use German accents. All the signs and telexes are in German, though.
Usually this doesn’t bug me, but it did, as did a big round of “Hey, who is that?” Bill Nighy, for example, I half-recognized. Like, “That guy looks like Bill Nighy, only thinner. And less funny.” Nighy is a great actor, but I’m used to seeing him in silly things like Pirates of the Carribbean. Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson are also great, but they’re also so very English.
I try to avoid comments like “this would’ve been better in Japanese” but I have to think this might have been done better with a bunch of no-name German actors.
Or maybe not. The Boy liked it more than I did.