I am a history buff. So much in fact, that I think if there were a sure career path for history majors besides research or teaching, I would have been there. So Valkyrie was on my radar since I first heard about it, but not enough to catch it at the theater.
Prior to seeing it, the biggest obstacle in liking this movie was probably Tom Cruise. It was hard to imagine him as Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the key to the Hitler assassination plot. After seeing it, that remains the biggest issue with the movie. The dancing old man from Tropic Thunder, Risky Business, Cocktail and Mission Impossible, all seem to come to mind before him being a serious, real-life character. Probably did not help that ESPN's Bill Simmons dubbed him "der Maverick" in a podcast as an homage to Top Gun.
Many World War II movies use Europeans to play Nazis. That would have helped here, since Cruise employed his American accent throughout the 120 minutes. Not that putting a fake German accent would have done better, so the point should have been, don't use Tom Cruise here.
Aside from Cruise, the movie still lacked some storyline. While we are told early on about von Stauffenberg's reasons to participate in the plot, we are not told how he got there. The first 45 minutes or so appear to set up the big event, but watching the whole movie, you realize none of it was necessary as you would understand just as much if it weren't there. Watching it with The Sports Freak, from the DC Sports Page, he noted that the movie could have been helped by reminding the audience of other key events happening in the war. We are only given a sparse timeline. With it, we are not sure if the plot took a week, a month, or a year to get in place.
While Valkyrie did not satisfy, it was still good to see a World War II movie. If you are a history buff, you should consider renting it. There are excellent actors in the movie, like Tom Wilkinson (Ben Franklin from HBO's John Adams) and Eddie Izzard, among other recognizable faces. Just ignore the fact that Tom Cruise is there.
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