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Starring: Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard

Director: Bryan Singer

Screenplay: Christopher McQuarrie, Nathan Alexander

Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel

Original Score: John Ottman

Running Time: 121 Mins.

Tom Cruise is an enigma, once adored by all as the worlds biggest movie star, he now spends his time parading around with his wife (Katie Holmes, in case you have been living under a rock!) and embarrassing himself on Oprah or attacking water-squirting fans. Earlier this year saw a successful attempt to regain some credibilty in an unrecognisable role in Tropic Thunder, going overboard at the end he never-the-less won back a lot of his fanbase. But still desperately in need of a hit following the flop of Lions For Lambs, under his newly reinvigorated studio United Artists. So under the same production company comes another ‘serious’ role concerned with War, though this time from a very different stage in history.

Tom Cruise for only the second time in his career is playing a real person (following Born on the Fourth of July) and makes a good fist of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, its hardly ground breaking but Cruise commands the screen as ever bringing a subtle dignity to Stauffenberg. Eminnently watchable as Cruise, he is complimented by a largely British support cast of  likes of Nighy, Wilkinson and McNally. The stand outs from this troupe have to be Eddie Izzard and Kenneth Branagh, having proved their acting mettle many a time before it’s nice to see Izzard get something weighty to sink his teeth into and the same can be said of Branagh who has been of our screens for far too long.

Obviously in a cast this expansive some get lost, Branagh dissapears midway only to briefly come back in the final throws, and Terence Stamp is largely sidelined despite reeking of dignity. Much has been made of the actors all playing Germans yet using their native accents, Cruise with his strong American accent in particular, though the film does open with him speaking German, a technique I thought worked exceptionally well. For this is about the story and performance, not accents! And for those wanting Historical authenticity you need look no further than the costumes and set design, spot on right down to the tiniest details, the uniform of SS soldiers still sending shivers down my spine.

The main issue Valkyrie had to overcome was the fact that everyone (should) know(s) the outcome, that the attempted assassination attempt on Hitler failed, only because of an oak table! So whilst the build up to the how and why of these men in the planning of the assassination is gripping and thoroughly engaging, the film really steps up a gear in the final thrid where operation Valkyrie is put into play with it unclear to the protagonists as to whether Hitler is dead or not, and the tension builds to unbearable levels, as a good thriller should. 

But despite all this there is something lacking, some real spark that would have elevated it beyond mere good thriller territory, maybe to something award worthy. But the fact is Bryan Singer is not the masterful director he seems to have been hailed as in the past, where this is miles better than Superman Returns, it lacks a visual flair and style of its own, but don’t let that put you off, he did make The Usual Suspects after all!  

VERDICT

A solid turn from Cruise, surrounded by an excellent cast of old pro’s, help to make Valkyrie as taught a thriller as you will see all year, and one that  is much better than the innumerable delays would suggest. Though far from an award worthy effort it is lacking in a certain something, the spark of a better director perhaps…?

grade-c3

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