Friday, December 26, 2008

Tom Cruise and Valkyrie

I attended "Valkyrie" with my oldest son yesterday afternoon.

I've read three reviews so far, and we find a consensus in this limited sample that Valkyrie's strength is its grand scale and director Bryan Singer's skill in keeping things moving when little fast action fills the screen.

Manohla Dargis at the New York Times hits on the main theme I've heard from the man-on-the-street scuttlebutt: Tom Cruise's performance, with his American accent, falls short in its portrayal of German aristocrat and officer Claus von Stauffenberg. Dargis discounts the movie's historical benefits, but her mildly offhanded take on Stauffenberg makes an interesting comment on the film's fabulous cinematography:

He’s a complex character, too complex for this film, which like many stories of this type, transforms World War II into a boy’s adventure with dashing heroes, miles of black leather and crane shots of German troops in lockstep formation that would make Leni Riefenstahl flutter.
The reference, of course, is to Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will," but actually we don't see Nuremberg-scale rallies in Valkyrie, rather instead are crisp troop line-ups, and especially an attention to detail in German military uniforms, and the combination together provides a panorama of historical significance that I'd like to see more at the movies.

At the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan make a grudging case for the movie's excellence, suggesting the offering's "a perfectly acceptable motion picture." Perhaps the Wall Street Journal's roundup up of late-year Oscar contenders puts it best, stressing the film's historical value:

Two dramatic arcs intersect in "Valkyrie," a big, old-fashioned action adventure starring Tom Cruise as Claus von Stauffenberg, the aristocratic German army colonel who, in 1944, led the July 20 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. In addition to the plot itself, there's the arc of Mr. Cruise's career, from "Risky Business" to the riskier business of embodying an authentic German hero in a lavish English-language production with limited suspense; the audience - at least some of it - knows that the plot failed. So how does the film work? Well enough, in the end. Mr. Cruise's performance turns out to be brisk and reasonably plausible, though unexceptional, while the production as a whole succeeds as an elaborate procedural, impressively staged in historical locations ....

Once the plotters plunge into action, though, "Valkyrie" becomes both an exciting thriller and a useful history lesson. Younger members of the audience may not have known that the Nazi army's officer corps contained nests of determined resistance to Hitler's madness.
Video Hat Tip: Great Satan's Girlfriend.

19 comments:

Gayle said...

Thanks for the write-up on this movie, Donald. I haven't seen it yet.

There's a lot about this terrible time in history the young audience members probably don't know. They don't teach much about it anymore, at least not in the public school system.

Donald Douglas said...

You're right, Gayle! Hope you had a great Christmas.

postulant K said...

Interestingly, I am currently reading a book of collected prison writings and sermons from the Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, who was executed for treason by the Nazis in connection to this very same incident. Very powerful stuff, and heartbreaking too. How horrible to watch your country slowly slip into such madness. "We must never tire of doing what is right, my brothers" as Saint Paul said. May God give us the grace to face the challenges of our own time.

Obob said...

I need to see the movie before I gather an opinion. I have to many questions to ask about his Cruise'e character and his past.
So I will wait until DVD. Children gobble time

Donald Douglas said...

Hi PostulantK.

I think we'll be okay. Times are a changing though, that's for sure.

Thanks for visiting.

Donald Douglas said...

Obob: Check the Wikipedia entry for Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. Also, if you have a copy of Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, it's got a good discussion of the whole plot.

Philippe Ohlund said...

This evening I saw Largo Winch.

It was quite entertaining. :-)

Thanks for your review of Valkyrie, Donald!

I like to see movies, but I think, however, I'm an embarassment at cinemas.

I fall asleep during the best action, and I laugh at the wrong places and situations, no one else thinks are funny...

I have not seen Valkyrie, because it has not come to here yet.

But since all movies are doubled into French, it will be very fun to hear Tom Cruise babbling in French! :-)

Grace Explosion said...

Sounds like a good move, Donald.

Did you see this article?? Rick Moran is saying that anyone who believes in God is an IDIOT relegated to unthinking jobs... and incapable of holding public office.

I had no idea the man was that much of a true outsider to conservativism.

check it out:

http://rightwingnuthouse.com/archives/2008/12/26/jindal-is-not-the-answer/#comment-1755892

Donald Douglas said...

They show movies in French, eh Philippe? That's interesting ... and yes, that's going to be funny hearing Cruise in French!

Donald Douglas said...

You'd like it, Grace, even if you're not that big a cruise fan. I'll check the Moran piece, thanks.

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

I don't go out to see movies that often; but Gran Torino gave me my money's worth.

Philippe Ohlund said...

Donald, yes all films are doubled in French here. :-)

In the beginning I didn't like it, but it is how it is, and I can get used to almost anything. :-)

In Sweden I was used to Swedish subtitles and original English language, but here they want all films, and on television too, to be in French.

I remember when I first saw the Rocky films on television here.

I have seen them in Sweden with Stallone's original voice.

In French Stallone has a completely different voice - he sounds like a mixture of a mosquito crossed with a toaster - and the phrases are sometimes very weird, and totally changed compared to the original. :-)

They have very strict language laws in Europe.

I work in the Flemish part of Belgium. All the papers from my work are always in Flemish, notwithstanding that I presently live in the French-speaking part of the country.

For Flemish- or Dutch-speaking persons, who work in the French-speaking part, and live in the Dutch-speaking part it is almost the same, but in French.

But in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, they are even stricter with the Flemish language, for immigration reasons.

If I ask a question to the local administration, where I work, and I ask my question in French or English, they are not allowed to respond in those languages, even if they speak them. All must be done in Dutch or Flemish.

I will change job the 5th of January. I got all paperwork and questions in Flemish for that job, and I am actually quite proud that I understood and could answer them in Flemish. :-)

Europe is complicated, isn't it?

Some people think that Belgium will split, but that will never be possible.

I cannot imagine how the very Catholic Flemish population could integrate within the Calvinist Netherlands.

And similarly, people in the very rojalistic French speaking Wallonia, constantly make fun of the French republic and its President.

Belgium is a very catholic and rojalistic part of Europe, and it will always keep together, notwithstanding all domestic tensions. :-)

Myself, I really appreciate Belgian beer, chocolate, and fries too! :-)

Donald Douglas said...

I saw Gran Torino too, Wordsmith. Actually, this is the one time of year where I try to go out to see a few movies. Seems like I'm too busy most of the rest of the time, or it's got to be some big blockbuster.

AI said...

I'm looking forward to seeing movie thanks for the write up...

From what I've read to date, "Valkyrie" comes to the fore during the heart wrenching scenes that give a clue to just how close they got to pulling it off. One's heart hurts upon learning that nearly a year of continued conflict was quite nearly averted had they succeeded.

Dave Miller said...

I saw it today. and while I generally do not like movies about which I know the outcome, I thought it was pretty good.

You are right in that it indeed faced paced considering there was no "action" for the ADD crowd.

Juanita's Journal said...

"Manohla Dargis at the New York Times hits on the main theme I've heard from the man-on-the-street scuttlebutt: Tom Cruise's performance, with his American accent, falls short in its portrayal of German aristocrat and officer Claus von Stauffenberg. Dargis discounts the movie's historical benefits, but her mildly offhanded take on Stauffenberg makes an interesting comment on the film's fabulous cinematography:


This is the most idiotic complaint I have ever heard. Are we to believe that Ms. Dargis had no problem with the British accents that were featured in a film purely about Germans, but she had a problem with Cruise's American accent? How utterly idiotic!

By the way, I saw the movie yesterday. I loved it and is now one of my favorite films for 2008.

KMacGinn said...

I agree with Juanita. I think Cruise not having a German accent is far better than having him deliver his lines with a cheesy, oh-so-fake German accent. Much like actors who try to sound "southern", a poorly developed accent is distracting and laughable. (By the way, Cruise's opening lines in the movie, given in German, were fairly well done. His pronunciation was quite good.)

I've seen another movie critic complain about "Valkryrie" being a Nazi apologia. I wondered, first, if the guy was using the term incorrectly. Secondly, I am always mesmerized by stories of those individuals who fought against Hitler's regime. To overlook such stories ignores that there were a number of heroic individuals and communities who resisted. I guess it's OK to point out such stories from France, Sweden, Bulgaria. But, perhaps those critics don't like to believe that there were some Germans who did revolt.

courtneyme109 said...

Valkyrie was well done and the critics are grasping at straws.

Valkyrie is way more than being period correct on unifoprms, actual locales and weaponry - the story.

About 1/2 through it you realize that this was the first computerized police state - where anything said anywhere could get you thrown into jail or worse.

The real reason critics are dissing it is that it proves that W's Great Satan does NOT equal Nazi time Germany.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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