Tuesday, December 30, 2008
You know, I'm not really a big fan of war films. At least modern war films. However, for some weird reason, I was really looking forward to checking out Valkyrie. It may be my respect for Tom Cruise, it may be my love of Bryan Singer films, or it could just be the copious amount of buzz behind it, from Internet circles, and truthfully, I'm pretty glad I did.
At the height of WW2, a group of high-ranking German officers hatched a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, and seize power of the military command in order to end the war. The operation was codenamed "Valkyrie", for the emergency plan that was meant to be used in case of a revolt against the Nazi government. This plan had been modified by the conspirators to ensure their success, but for various reasons the plot failed when finally carried out on 20 July 1944. The conspirators of the inner circle were shot after a kangaroo trial or sentenced to death soon after. We follow the leader of this operation, Claus von Stauffenberg, through the set up, execution, and ultimately failure (it's no spoiler) of one of 15 attempts on Hitler's life.
The film stars Tom Cruise as von Stauffenberg, and is his first starring role since last year's film, Lions For Lambs, and is his second film role of the year, after a hilarious turn in Tropic Thunder. I have my problems with Mr. Cruise, honestly, I think he's bat shit crazy, but that's neither here nor there, because he's a great actor. If you look at his career, you can see that he is one of the better actors working today. Maybe not in the top 10, but when you have a career spanning Top Gun, A Few Good Men, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Minority Report AND a dark turn in Collateral, it shows that he's a really solid actor. Crazy, but a great actor.
And while I have my problems with the role, he's actually quite good here. He's a little wooden, but in a world where everyone else is strict in their stature, it really didn't bother me. The rest of the cast is also quite good here, with great performances from Kenneth Branagh, and a small role from Terrence Stamp. Bill Nighy was a little lacking to me but that's the only true weak link.
This is also the newest film from director, Bryan Singer, most famous for the first two X-Men films, Superman Returns, and The Usual Suspects, and this is a perfect addition to his canon. This is a gorgeous film, and his stamp is all over it. There aren't really any action scenes, minus a really well staged opening, but for a film that is basically the WWII version of Zodiac, a film about, in this case, planning, to be this visually enthralling, it needs to be spoken for. From cinematography, to costume design, this is a gorgeous film, and there is one shot in particular, in which soldiers are taking the War Ministry, and it's a basic over head shot, but there are hundreds of soldiers running through an area that's just covered with Nazi flags, and the bright red, white, and black of the flags amongst the grayish blue color scheme that is used throughout the film, it really took my breath away.
There is one thing that I was really nervous about is how they would go about setting up the language of the film. What I mean by that is, if you have seen the trailer, you know that they are speaking English, without ANY sort of German accent. When I first saw this, I was a bit nervous, but they set it up perfectly in the opening of the film. Tom Cruise's character is sitting in a tent, writing in his journal. As most films do, when someone is writing, they have a voice over of the actor, reading what he or she is writing. However, here, it's Cruise speaking in German. As the narration goes on, the German voice over and a new, English voice over clash, and as the German voice over fades, the English one comes in, ultimately culminating in a soldier rushing into Cruise's tent, speaking in English, and then you are off. It was PERFECTLY done, and from there on, it didn't bother me. Do I wish this was a German film, sure, but it didn't bother me, because of the brilliant way they set it up.
That said, this is definitely a flawed film. The biggest qualm I have with this film is the horrible pace it follows. The film really drags itself done into the mud in the second act, and if it weren't for a really well done ending, it may have been a much different film-going experience. I mentioned a similar film, Zodiac, which is an hour longer, but so much more compelling, because the pace is so brilliantly done, that Mr. Singer and the screenwriters could have taken a couple of pointers from David Fincher and his crew. There were moments that the screenplay seemed a little too on the nose, and some of the cast just really didn't hold up. However, this isn't a bad film, it's just not the best of the year.
VALKYRIE - 7/10
It's a mixed bag of quality. There are visual flourishes, but there is also horrible pacing. If you are into the subject matter, rent this one and a brilliant German film called Downfall, both are worth your time.
Sorry for the short review, honestly, there's really not much to talk about when it comes to this movie, so I hope you enjoyed the review!!!
Come back later for more news and reviews!
HAPPY NEW YEAR! Make a new years resolution to go see something good bitches... :D
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