June 18, 2013
Written by Garrett Schumann
Thursday, 11 June 2009 13:09
For several years, Garrett Schumann contributed film reviews as part of the “Take Two” father-and-sons movie reviewer team. This week, his father Mark, the “Reel Dad,” steps aside to bring Garrett back to the column for a guest appearance, to talk about Valkyrie with Tom Cruise.
I think it is safe to say when most people think of World War II Germany one image and one name immediately come to mind: the swastika and Adolf Hitler. The broad brush we use to paint Germany and its people during the 1930s and 40s is rightfully used because no one can deny their society was, at that time, dominated by a certainly evil influence of the Nazis. Over the last decade or so, however, a lightly populated stream of films has aimed to humanize a new aspect of the German story from this time in history. While many are morosely serious, there are lighter films that accurately display a new perspective on Nazi Germany without a life-altering emotional investment. In the case of Valkyrie, which is light, the filmmakers use the true account of a harrowing attempt on Hitler’s life to illustrate German discontent.
I was skeptical about Valkyrie’s merit for a couple of reasons. First, Tom Cruise’s reputation as an actor is not exactly what it used to be and I just didn’t know what to expect. Second, Valkyrie is not a serious movie. It is a suspense thriller that very easily might have trivialized an historical period in a way that would be irreconcilable to a modern, educated audience. 21st century filmgoers demand realism when they go to the theater, and this is not limited to the amount of blood and obscenities on screen. Every detail of the film must have a high level of integrity lest the story look silly against its dark backdrop.
Along these lines, Valkyrie suffers, potentially, from a large oversight — the characters’ accents are inconsistent. Most of the characters have British accents (as they are played by British actors ranging from Kenneth Branaugh to the stand-up comic Eddie Izzard); whereas, Tom Cruise (Col. von Stauffenberg) speaks with an American accent and David Bamber (Hitler) uses a German accent despite being British. This linguistic turmoil ruined the movie for some people I know, but it didn’t bother me.
What gives Valkyrie the merit to overcome its dissonant treatment of language is how it stands out in the aforementioned stream of movies about Germany in the Second World War. Many films, good and bad, have been made to shed light on the Holocaust, and others, more bad than good, have explored the nature of the French Resistance in World War II. But, few have been made about internal German opposition to Nazi power, and I am sure Valkyrie is the best. This does not mean Valkyrie is perfect (it is certainly lacks some narrative depth), but it does a very good job at painting a compelling and, most importantly, true picture of a forgotten part of Germany’s past. Without being an apologist from Germany’s wrongdoings or re-writing history, Valkyrie grants an exciting view at what might have been, while somberly illustrating inflexibility and ruthlessness of the government that ruled Germany in World War II.
Where Eagle Dare
Looking for something to rent? Here is a suggestion inspired by Valkyrie:
Although this 1968 espionage flick does not have the same historical weight as Valkyrie, its leading man, Richard Burton, had fallen just as far as Tom Cruise in terms of Hollywood clout. Nevertheless, Burton, like Cruise, turns in a thrilling performance!
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