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Bryan Singer’s ‘Valkyrie’ With Tom Cruise Mistakes Morose For Intense

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Tom Cruise can be a powerfully vibrant actor in the right material but he’s horrendously miscast in Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie,” a decision amplified by poor direction that drains this true story of an assassination attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler of its inherent power.

When he’s in the right material, like his great work in “Magnolia,” “Minority Report,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” and “Rainman,” Cruise can be impossible to take your eyes off. He’s a generally underrated actor who has watched his off-screen antics steal the thunder from his actual talent.

Having said that, he’s quite simply bad in “Valkyrie”. It’s arguably his worst performance. Cruise and Singer have mistaken being morose for being serious and have made a film that, consequently, ends up dull instead of intense. Cruise’s character needs to be the passionate lynchpin for one of the most infamous assassination attempts in world history, but the actor’s lack of on-screen resonance and Singer’s general weaknesses as a storyteller punch a hole in the potential of their story.

Valkyrie opens from United Artists on December 25, 2008.

As World War II drew to a close, even officials close to Hitler knew that he was leading Germany and all of Europe down a very dangerous path. There were several attempts on his life. The most widespread and nearly effective attempt came in the summer of 1944 and was spearheaded by a recently-wounded soldier named Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise).

Valkyrie opens from United Artists on December 25, 2008.

Assassinating someone as protected as Hitler would take a complex scheme, one that required that von Stauffenberg rewrite an official order known as ‘Valkyrie’, the document that determined the use of the reserve army in the case of a coup. With the help of Major-General Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh), General Friedrick Olbricht (Bill Nighy), Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp), and General Erich Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard), von Stauffenberg put in a motion a plan that could have changed the world. In fact, if not for a last-minute location change, it probably would have.

The plot to kill Hitler involves over a dozen characters, explosives, and even a shoot-out. On paper, it should make for both a history lesson and an intense action ride for audiences around the world. On paper.

What’s most shocking about “Valkyrie” is how slow and dull the film ended up. The supporting cast alone, including the great Tom Wilkinson, Nighy, Branagh, Izzard, Stamp, and the stunning-but-wasted Carice van Houten should have been enough alone to give the movie a spark, but Singer lets them all down. The interesting supporting cast is the only reason to see “Valkyrie” and all that saves it from complete disaster.

Most damagingly, Singer and his cinematographer, Newton Thomas Sigel, shoot nearly everything in extreme, claustrophobic close-up, never giving the audience the sensation that we know exactly what’s going on and what’s at stake.

And writers Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander don’t provide nearly enough of a back story for any of their characters, as if filming a scene where von Stauffenberg writes an angry letter about Hitler and another where he’s injured in combat would be enough for us to get behind him as a lead. History makes it easy to support a lead trying to kill one of the most evil men in history, but imagine how much more effective “Valkyrie” would be if he was a fully, three-dimensional character of his very own.

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If “Valkyrie” was just an action movie, the lack of back stories wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s not effective as a thrill ride either. Cruise and Singer take themselves way too seriously for that. Singer can’t just make a historical drama or an action adventure movie, he has to make the best of both that anyone has ever seen. It’s that dull self-seriousness that sinks “Valkyrie”. It’s ironic that a film about an attempt that had some pretty serious flaws feels like its creators made a few mistakes of their own.

‘Valkyrie’ stars Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp, and Carice van Houten. ‘Valkyrie,’ which was written by Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander and directed by Bryan Singer, opened in Chicago on December 25, 2008.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

Anonymous's picture

‘It’s arguably his worst

It’s arguably his worst performance.’

Have you seen Top Gun?

HollywoodChicago.com's picture

Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun'...

Anonymous wrote:
’It’s arguably his worst performance.’ Have you seen ‘Top Gun’?

“Top Gun” is a classic and the film is widely believed to be among Tom Cruise’s best roles. I’m curious: Why is your view about that otherwise?

Veritas's picture

Valkyrie

I wonder if this “Film critic” and I watched the same film. I disagreed with every single thing he said about this film.
” Dull and not effective as a thrill ride”? Are you kidding me?
This is one reason I don’t really pay attention to film critics (positive or negative} Why is it even Film critiquing a job when it is sorely based on personal opinion and taste?

Personally, I don’t understand it when rational human beings would opt out of watching a film just based on someone else’s opinion, someone who probably has never made a film before or even attempted to write a screenplay. I believe theories should be backed with practice.
Are people that lazy that they would rather have someone think for them? Are we that busy of a society that free thinking has become outdated ?

Ladies and gentleman if a critic’s review was the absolute truth, a truth that is not based on individual taste, opinions or bias then we wouldn’t have varying reviews of a single film would we?

To me critics are just “word weavers” who would love to be involved in filmmaking but don’t have the guts, drive, nor talent to do so hence the cynicism and the bitterness. I could be wrong but that is my opinion, I am critiquing the critics.
Yeah you “critics” are very witty and funny, in fact you excel in irony BUT at the expense of someone else’s labor of love. So I say make or write your own film and then maybe you might be awarded the right to be judgmental; but even then why should people care of what you think?

Film Critics can be critical however they want but that does not validate or legitimize their profession.

With that being said, if people are going to blindly take the word of a critic as Law then they have only themselves to blame! People who follow critics reviews remind me of cult members-brainwashed! Think for yourselves people I promise it wouldn’t hurt.

By the way the only problem that I had with Valkyrie is that none of the non German actors in the film attempted to adopt the german accent, I still cant figure it out why? Was it that hard and they were wary about resorting to fake German accents? Well, I guess Tom Cruise can do whatever tom Cruise wants! But nevertheless he gave a great performance! So go watch Valkyrie…..only if you want to and not because I or your friend or some “critic” said it was good.

And I just watched Revolutionary Road and again I disagree with the “critics” Yeah there were some good performances most notably from Michael Shannon. Winslet and Di Caprio were OK, yeah they are actually great at doing “angry”. You betcha! They deserve the Golden Globe and SAG awards nods for saving a rather boring trying to be serious flick. Voila! I am a critic and I am telling you don’t go watch Revolutionary Road, spend your hard earned money on better films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Defiance. WARNING: I have never made a film nor written a screen play, This review is totally based on my personal opinion and the fact that I think Kate Blanchet can do no wrong and the other thing- Daniel Craig with his piercing blue eyes and the Boyish Brad Pitt are so damn hot!

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