Sunday, June 14, 2009

Valkyrie: Grade D

Valkyrie (2008)
Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branaugh, Tom Wilkinson, Terrence Stamp, Eddie Izzard; Director Bryan Singer.

Cruise is Claus von Stauffenberg, the Nazi colonel who led the 15th and final plot to assassinate Hitler during WWII. The plot fails and he is shot. The movie relies on general historical knowledge, general interest in Nazis, and on some big name stars to keep you interested but it barely does. There is virtually no dramatic tension in the film. The bomb is in a brief case so there are not even any red LED numbers counting down. Most of the movie is taken up with bureaucratic infighting and negotiations among the Nazi officer corps (“Are you with us or not?”). The characters are flat and the acting mediocre, even by Branaugh. Wilkinson gives the best performance but he is swamped by swooping cameras and over-lit sets. Direction looks like made-for-TV. CGI effects are noticeably weak. Sets and costumes are immaculately clean and shiny, and nearly the whole movie is shot on unconvincing sound stages so we do not have a sense of time and place. The war itself is strictly in the background. Dialog is lame. Cruise’s motivation is simply declared in the beginning, but we don’t know where it comes from because we don’t know who he is. He demonstrates non of his natural wit and style; just speaks his lines on cue. Pounding heartbeat music tries to inject some drama. The period vehicles are nice to look at, and the story plods along slowly but steadily. There is just enough color and movement to save the movie from utter disaster.

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