Wednesday, January 07, 2009

FILM: Valkyrie

Valkyrie is a thrilling portrayal of an attempt by some well-placed decent-minded Germans to assassinate Hitler during World War II. (The script is based reasonably closely on actual historical events and people.) Of course there is no suspense in the plot's ultimate failure, but it is amazing to see how it came about and how close it came to succeeding. Once the film got going, I was on the edge of my seat to the climax, and despite the advantage of historical hindsight, I still found myself silently urging the conspirators on. Tom Cruise does a fine job as the heroic Colonel von Stauffenberg, who ends up leading the plot when more senior men are less decisive. His role is mostly courageous man of action, which Cruise is seasoned at, but he also performs well in moments of restrained emotion, like saying goodbye to his wife, and trying to contact her in the end. The action-and-suspense experience of director Bryan Singer (of X-Men and Superman Returns fame) translates nicely into this historical thriller where the only superpowers are courage and integrity. His eye for the human elements compliments Christopher McQuarrie's script, which brings out the differing modes of engagement of the various conspirators, from Bill Nighy's risk-averse general to Eddie Izzard's reluctant collaborator, and Tom Wilkinson's masterfully playing both sides. This inspirational historical footnote is well worth seeing, a true profile in courage.

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