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Not dramatic enough
Elvis D'Silva | February 20, 2009 09:51 IST
During his tenure as the supreme commander of the Nazi forces, at least fifteen attempts were made on Adolf Hitler's [Images] life. As any person even casually acquainted with history knows, Hitler was not killed in any of those attempts. So going in, the end of a film that attempts a historical recreation of the final attempt on the F�hrer's life is a foregone conclusion. Now unless a film based around the Valkyrie plot is intended solely as a teaching tool for students of World War II history it needs more than the mere presence of Tom Cruise [Images] in an 'important' movie to garner either universal critical acclaim or significant box office.
In a world with a seemingly infinite number of stories (true and imagined) that are waiting to be told, one wonders why all the big names involved in this project got behind this wisp of a yarn to base an entire feature film around.
The film opens with the failure of a previous plot to kill Hitler followed by our introduction to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), who is pretty seriously wounded while on the battlefield in Africa. When the group behind the previous failed coup attempt loses its leader, they recruit Stauffenberg to the cause and moves are made to orchestrate a fresh attempt at killing Hitler.
What follows is a long drawn out enactment of the events, reversals and safeguards put in place to take over the running of the country after Hitler and his inner circle are killed or captured. And that is how it goes, things happen and then something goes wrong and more things happen and then some more things go wrong.
Very little is done to infuse the story with either dramatic tension or a sense of occasion. Especially since the events detailed in Valkyrie occurred around nine months before the eventual death of Hitler and the defeat of Germany [Images] in the World War, there isn't even a powerful sense of 'what if' generated by the proceedings detailed on screen.
As far as performances go, an eye patch and some cinematic trickery to portray an amputated right hand are not enough to make Tom Cruise the movie star disappear into the skin of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. We are treated to most of the mannerisms that fans look forward to in a Cruise motion picture event but they are extremely distracting within the construct of a serious movie like this one.
That actors like Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy [Images], Tom Wilkinson and Eddie Izzard speak in whatever accent they see fit is also distracting, especially when each and every one of them is supposed to be playing a German soldier. Since most people are expected to stand around, or march, or stride, while frowning deeply about the seriousness of somebody else's words or actions, there isn't really a broad range of performance on display.
The filmmaking is efficient enough and the sequence depicting the attack during which Stauffenberg was injured is fantastic, but that is not enough to sell the rest of the movie.
Valkyrie could have been a dramatic addition to the canon of films made about wartime, and its many effects and implications. Sadly, all this film ends up being is an empty exercise in reiterating futility.
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