From German-language authenticity (with US twang) to full English mid-sentence, Valkyrie’s uncertainty tumbles from the screen in its first scene.
It tells of the 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf and frame the SS for the crime. Cruise and his cohorts were soldiers before the Nazis, but with Allies Berlin-bound, they only forecast doom for their beloved fatherland.
They are now the German Resistance, secretly fighting the world’s most ruthless dictator… Sounds thrilling, right?
But as anyone with a fingertip grasp of facts knows, the eponymous Operation failed. As such the script has to zing off the screen to create any tension, but despite the combined talents of The Usual Suspects’ Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie, not to mention an array of Brit thesp talent, the story hiccups on history.
Predetermined outcomes don’t have to suffocate suspense – Thirteen Days had a killer script, Titanic invented a swoony romance, The Queen had Helen Mirren – but despite the inherent danger of a totalitarian state, Valkyrie never fizzles, all too often feeling like a dreary, talky procedural.
Not that there aren’t positives. The set design is exemplary (who’s got hold of all those Nazi uniforms now, eh?), exec producer/star Cruise is pumped and engaging throughout, while there’s no doubting the acting chops of Tom Wilkinson and Eddie Izzard – the latter stealing the show in a wholly straight role.
But overall? A botched op. Art imitating life. “There has to be a chance of success!” bellows Cruise to his fellow Hitler-hating Germans as they plot a plan they really should have actioned at least five years previously.
But in a work long in gestation, short on setpieces and thrills, Singer’s sixth film is as successful in entertaining its audience as Stauffenberg and co were at offing the Führer.
There’s a whiff of pointlessness hanging over this whole affair. The fact that Valkyrie is not the thriller the trailer promises is treason against the talent.