2008 // USA - Germany // Bryan Singer // January 2, 2009 // Theatrical Print
C - With Valkyrie, Bryan Singer delivers his most artistically unambitious film to date, which isn't to say that this tale of a German plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler is a failure. It vaults neatly over the primary obstacle that confronts all historical dramas about well-known figures and events, in that it summons tension despite the fact that we know how the story ends. Sticking close to the field manual employed by countless WWII dramas—crisp production values, a stable of familiar faces, and a cavalier disregard for linguistic incongruities—Valkyrie tricks the viewer into sweating the outcome with a polished but unremarkable technique. Singer neglects to plumb the thornier moral aspects of his mutinous protagonist, Claus von Stauffenberg, and with Tom Cruise filling his boots, who can blame the director? That said, Cruise's affinity for both rattled desperation and starched poker-faces suits the film's perilous intrigues. The remainder of Valkyrie's cast of heavyweights and recognizable character actors serve primarily as set dressing, putting the viewer at ease amid the swastikas. If the film dodges a bit on the German Resistance's character, it also avoids burnishing its conspirators too much, focusing instead on conjuring a pure mood of subsumed panic.