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Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Valkyrie

No, I did not get to go and see Frost/Nixon, but you know what, I have wanted to see Valkyrie. There are not many thrillers left any more which contain ideas which haven't been done before, except they are twisted and done better (sometimes). Likewise with films based on World War II and/or the Nazi regime. In 2008 alone, the films are numbering in the double figures, so like the story of Defiance, we actually in the case of Valkyrie have an interesting story to be told which hasen't had any light shed upon in the world of film. Okay, the premise of Valkyrie is that in 1944, things aren't neccessarily looking good for the Nazi war machine, and many of the military generals, including including Claus von Stauffenberg, played by Tom Cruise, a highly lauded man who is returning from Tunisia after suffering some severe wounds, including the loss of an eye. Stauffenberg finds that he is not the only person who is opposed to the Nazis, and thus a plan is formed to assassinate Adolf Hitler and stage a coup of the Third Reich government headquarters in Berlin. So, basically that's the just of the story here. Alright, to start with the good, it is pretty clear that the film-makers have not gone into this film rather lazily. Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie implements the historical background of the Stauffenberg Bomb plot well into the film, and whenever you watch it, you have to wonder, why hasen't this film been made yet? Valkyrie cetainly carries an aura of freshness with it. On the topic of the return of Tom Cruise in his first leading role since Mission Impossible III, what I will say is that you really have to go in with an open mind. Forget all the Scientology, and embrace the role that he plays. Cruise is a marquee name who certainly seems to be able to draw sympathy well from the audience, especially for a man who despite the film's romanticisation, was still a member of the Nazi regime. The fact that even I, a strong Socialist who despises the Nazis could even consider sympathy to a Nazi speaks well of both Cruise and the ensemble of supporting actors, including Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp and Kenneth Branagh. There are no acting masterclasses here, but they get the job done. Also, Brian Singer, who has proved himself as a perfectly capable director with The Usual Suspects, the X-Men movies and Superman Returns, also directs well here, although comparing it to his previous work, it seems that the powers-that-be have more power here than Singer. And this is where the problems start. You would think that coming off of the epic Superman Returns (which I liked more than most people did) that Valkyrie would the kind of project that would get some real critical acclaim for Cruise, Singer and co. When the film was first hyped for release (it has been delayed), it was considered in the running for the Oscar season. Here we could have had on our hands a film of which could have been in the running for Best Picture around this time, instead it is being forgotten and lost in the middle of Oscar season. Instead, my main gripe with the film, which really tears it down, is the fact that despite the obviously strong material with which the screenwriters and film-makers can transfer from history to screen, they make a relatively fresh topic to people who did not know the Stauffenberg plot seem like any other bog-standard thriller. I really just did not think that this was in any way tense, but instead rather depressing in the worst way possible. I think what it boiled down to was that the powers-that-be were getting annoyed at the films extensive delays, and to avoid the project going over-budget or unreleased, they rushed as quick as possible to get the film released, but instead of the planned three-hour epic, which I feel would have been better for this type of film, it is chopped down into a two-hour, audience friendly comtempory romanticisation of the Stauffenberg plot without much real internal characterisation. And it doesn't even do that. By Hollywood standard on its reported $90 million budget, it was a failure, making only $120 million worldwide. Whenever you see things like this happen in film, it saddens me knowing what a waste good material and what I am sure could have been a far better film has gone to waste. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy it to a degree, but it really makes you think, with McQuarrie being involved for six years, Singer for three or four, and Cruise for two, and all the re-shoots and delays, was it really worth it all?

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 6.0/10

This is my final review for the year of 2008, and my next published blog will be my second annual best and worst of the year, so keep watching.

1 comment:

simonsays2 said...

Saw this on blue-ray and thought it was very good. One the more underrated films from 2008. I actually found it very suspenseful particularly the Hitler sequences. It was a tad long-winded at times but overall, I really liked.