Film Review: Valkyrie (2008)

“We have to show the world that not all of us are like him”

I have to admit that my hopes were not high for Valkyrie, the assumption prevailing that Hollywood couldn’t manage a nuanced film about the Nazis. But I do have to commend Bryan Singer for at least exceeding those expectations. It’s still not a film that I particularly enjoyed though, not quite tense or suspenseful enough for a thriller, not quite psychologically intense.

The film concerns the failed assassination of Adolf Hitler by German officers of the Wehrmacht in 1944. Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg returns from a grisly battle in Tunisia gravely injured and is identified as a key target by the German resistance after getting a desk job that puts him in the ideal position to destroy the Nazi high command from the inside. Spoiler alert – things, however, do not go to plan.

But without much delving into von Stauffenberg’s psyche – or his marriage to the sparky Nina – it’s an awful lot of hushed plotting and whispered worrying to sit through and though the stakes are indeed high, I never found it quite gripping enough. Ultimately, it adds substantively little to an already crowded field and instead of investigating moral shades of grey, just puts the colour on the uniforms.

Tom Cruise is fascinating if slightly flawed casting as von Stauffenberg, his battle injuries presented more as Oscar bait than strictly necessary as the film tries too hard to put him in the good corner. There’s an impressive cast around him – Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Christian Berkel, even Eddie Izzard, plus Black Book’s Carice van Houten and Halina Reijn both popping up – but pleasingly it is Jamie Parker who stands out the most as Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, faithful to the cause until the last. 

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