Tom Cruise is a crazy, scary man. If you read the tabloids long enough you’ll find scads of stories about him, which are just fabricated and sheer lunacy. But one thing is true…he’s a pretty good actor. And when you run to the video store and grab a copy of Valkyrie, well, you’ll probably notice that yourself.
In Valkyrie, we’re introduced to a huge and incredibly convoluted plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler by elements within his own army. The best part is, much of this actually happened. Klaus von Stauffenberg (a real person, here played by Tom Cruise) is part of the military arm of the attempt to kill Hitler, using his own plans against him. See, Hitler had a plan just in case someone should turn against him called Operation Valkyrie, in which a reserve contingent of the German army, dubbed the Reserve Army, was kept around Berlin in the event of an uprising to suppress civil insurrection. So Stauffenberg and his contingent feign an uprising…on the part of Hitler’s own SS. This allows them to enact Operation Valkyrie to seize the SS, and with both the Reserve Army and the SS removed from the equation, the path becomes clear to seize Hitler’s government.
The most amazing part of this entire exercise is that this actually happened, and essentially came within a gnat’s whisker of actually succeeding, which would have brought the war to an end quite a bit sooner than it actually did. Frankly, with stuff like this going on, it’s a wonder Hitler’s regime managed to last as long as it did. Watching this epic story of love of country and betrayal play out is downright amazing—even more so when you consider that Hitler would commit suicide just nine months after the events of Valkyrie. It’s as though something was conceived that day that would be born as real as any man.
History aside, however, this is actually a very riveting movie, made doubly so by the fact that it has an unusually long runtime of a full two hours, in an era where eighty to ninety minutes is standard operating procedure. It’s a stunning, deep and rich epic that makes its viewer sit up and take notice. While most of us who haven’t studied World War II history extensively may not have known about Operation Valkyrie or the other fourteen assassination attempts on Hitler, this one carries an authenticity to it that makes it especially good. These were men so concerned about the direction of their country that they were willing to surrender their status and their very lives to bring about its downfall and rebirth.
And though the Stauffenberg heirs didn’t personally care for Cruise’s portrayal of him, I confess that I liked it just fine.
Valkyrie is a great thriller / suspense title and deserves your dollars and your time to watch. It’s downright inspiring in its portrayal of resistance to a madman, and it looks as beautiful as the plot itself is deep.