Judging by Mark Twain's comment about the music of Richard Wagner ("better than it sounds"), if Twain were around
to see "Valkyrie" he'd likely say it's better than it seems.
Faint praise for an interesting film with an asterisk, the asterisk being Tom Cruise.
Director Bryan Singer's drama about a plot to assassinate Hitler -- the one that came closest to succeeding, on
July 20, 1944 -- scrubs its protagonist clean for the purposes of pop movie salesmanship.
Singer made "The Usual Suspects"; he knows a thing or two about keeping hushed conversations in enclosed rooms nice and tense.
here from a script by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, the film focuses on a handful of key Nazi
officers who joined the scattered German resistance and went to work on a plan to eliminate the Fuhrer.
These men had the idea to put themselves in charge as a Reserve Army government replacing the Third Reich after
Hitler's death. "Operation Valkyrie," named after the riders of Wagner's "Ring Cycle," was the name.
Going into this film, you know how things are going to come out. Hitler will not be assassinated.
Still, with actors as good as Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Thomas Kretschmann and Kenneth Branagh in key supporting roles,
this ensemble piece avoids the usual action-movie triumphalism. It is, after, all, a chronicle of failure.
The aristocratic intellectual Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the assassination plot's crucial player, is played by Cruise,
and honestly, he isn't bad in the role.
Singer keeps him in check. Cruise, however, betrays some nervousness about being
upstaged by so many sterling British character men. His counterstrategy: keep the voice low, keep the American dialect as
neutral as possible and keep the bearing ramrod-straight. All the same, Cruise cannot suggest the aristocratic hauteur or
the steely authority needed in this role.
Watching "Valkyrie" (which begins with a tense, well-staged battle scene in 1943
Tunisia in which Stauffenberg nearly dies), you wonder why the Nazi we're rooting for is an American, while most of the
other Nazis are British, except Wilkinson, who is English but really does seem like a Nazi.
There's also the matter of Stauffenberg himself.
This cultured aesthete turned against his supreme commander for various reasons, and his revulsion regarding the Final
Solution may well have been one of them. Yet his letters to his wife years earlier contain various indications of ingrained
anti-Semitism. "Poland contained many Jews," goes one bit of correspondence, "many people of mixed blood ... who are only
happy when they are dominated."
As Alex Ross wrote in a 1997 Slate review of a Stauffenberg biography: "Stauffenberg's
attitude toward Jews can be sensed in this inscrutable sentence from a resistance manifesto: 'We want a New Order which
makes all Germans supporters of the state and guarantees them law and justice, but we scorn the lie of equality and we
bow before the hierarchies established by nature.'"
"Valkyrie" is not about Stauffenberg's change of heart.
It's a procedural, often absorbing, rarely surprising, about a briefcase bomb and a near-miss. Yet there's no
question the film feels dodgy and vague when it comes to the personalities and ideology of the men onscreen.
Does a big-budget project, designed to turn a profit on its risky investment, have an obligation to tell the whole
truth about a historical figure? Of course not.
But telling more of the truth would've made for a more provocative experience.
Valkyrie Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence and brief strong language).
Running time: 2:00.
Starring: Tom Cruise (Col. Claus von Stauffenberg); Kenneth Branagh (Maj.-Gen. Henning von Tresckow); Bill Nighy (Gen. Friedrich Olbricht); Tom Wilkinson (Gen. Friedrich Fromm); Carice van Houten (Nina von Stauffenberg); Thomas Kretschmann (Maj. Otto Ernst Remer); Terence Stamp (Ludwig Beck); Eddie Izzard (Gen. Erich Fellgiebel).
Directed by Bryan Singer; written by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander; photographed by Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by John Ottman; music by Ottman; production design by Lilly Kilvert and Patrick Lumb; produced by Singer, McQuarrie and Gilbert Adler. A United Artists release.
This charmless film concerns two lifelong friends, played by Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, whose competing weddings, mistakenly scheduled for the same day at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, turn bride-to-be against bride-to-be. Half the comedies made in Hollywood are based on the premise of boy-men acting like idiots. Switching the gender and toning down the vulgarity to a PG level offers only change, not improvement. Hathaway in particular deserves better material.
Based on a book by Bishop T.D. Jakes, this film is a faith-based love story, secondarily about God's role in the care and feeding of an L.A. couple's turbulent marriage. Thanks to Morris Chestnut, whose warm, easy screen presence was an asset way back in "Boyz N the Hood," and to Taraji P. Henson, a by-the-book scenario (described by screenwriter Brian Bird as "sort of a male version of the film 'Waiting to Exhale'") ends up being pretty entertaining.
However sterling the craftsmanship, the film adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel -- an excoriating portrait of a
mid-1950s marriage built on sticks, straw and delusion -- inflates the meaning and buffs the atmospheric surfaces of
the story, rather than digging into its guts.
But when stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet unleash their
character's demons, "Revolutionary Road" loses its tight, controlled sense of composition and air of solemnity
and, in human terms, matters.
The misadventures of a lovable Labrador retriever frame this sweet, surprisingly moving chronicle of a young couples
struggle to simultaneously build a family, advance their careers and maintain their sanity. Owen Wilson plays journalist
John Grogan, whose popular 2005 memoir spawned this film, and Jennifer Aniston plays Jenny, his wife. Dog lovers will
laugh delightedly for the first hour and spend the second hour weeping openly.
This is a tall tale of a man aging in reverse while bobbing serenely on lifes unpredictable seas. The colorful supporting
characters spill their guts to the wonder of nature played by Brad Pitt, as he begins his life a very old man, ages into
late-middle age, ripens into well, Brad Pitt, then embarks on the big fade into childhood, infancy and check-out time.
This film spends 105 minutes grappling at the edge of camp, cheap laughs and cliches. Yet the way it is handled by
director Darren Aronofsky and especially by Mickey Rourke, who really should get an Oscar for his portrayal of Randy The Ram
Robinson, a steroid-addled sweetie in tights, it stays honest and keeps on fighting.
Valkyrie, a plot to assassinate Hitler, stars Tom Cruise as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, a cultured aesthete who turned
against his supreme commander. Cruise is not bad, but he cannot suggest the aristocratic hauteur or the steely authority
needed in this role. Going into this film, you know how things are going to come out. Still, with actors as good as Tom
Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Thomas Kretschmann and Kenneth Branagh in key supporting roles, this ensemble piece avoids the
usual action-movie triumphalism.
Adam Sandler plays Skeeter, a hotel handyman under the thumb of the owner (Richard Griffiths) and manager (Guy Pearce). Skeeter and his sister (Courteney Cox) grew up in a motel bungalow court, and Skeeter longs for a crack at running the hotel that's built on the site. While Sis is away, Skeeter must baby-sit for his niece and nephew, and the adventure stories he spins become fantasy vignettes that somehow manage to improve his disappointing life. It's an adequate idea, dutifully delivered.
Kate Winslet stars in the film version of the Bernhard Schlink novel about a 15-year-old West German boy who, in 1958,
embarks on an affair with a 36-year-old trolley conductor with more on her mind, and in her past, than she admits.
The novel was hugely popular as well as controversial worldwide
Jim Carrey plays a loan officer who cannot get out of his self-pitying rut three years after a breakup. Then he encounters a self-help guru (Terence Stamp, in his first genuinely funny screen appearance) who challenges
his followers to say yes to every single thing that comes their way.
Clint Eastwood performance as a reclusive Korean War veteran toughing it out in a sketchy Detroit-area neighborhood may well lead to his first Academy Award for acting. After the vets young neighbor (Bee Vang) breaks into his garage to steal the car for which this film is named, our hero sets out to teach the boy how to stand up to his venal gangsta cousins.
Will Smith plays an IRS agent who has committed a terrible deed and appears to be investigating the cases of a carefully selected group of people, including a seriously ill heart patient (Rosario Dawson) and a blind pianist (Woody Harrelson).
This earnest, emotional film is a mixed but pretty interesting bag, though its G rating may mislead some parents into taking 4 or 5 year-olds to it, which could lead to some freakouts. Much of the movie, based on a Newbery Medal-winning book, has a grim narrative.
Valkyrie starring Tom CruiseMovie Review | Michael Phillips Reviews Valkyrie Valkyrie Movie Review & Movie Trailer
Valkyrie stars Tom Cruise.
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