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April 15, 2021

Huffman review: In any language, Cruise's 'Valkyrie' is confusing.

Finally! We learn the real reason the Germans lost the Second World War!
It’s because they spoke English but wrote in German!
It had to be a confusing mix for residents of the Deutschland, but not nearly as confusing as “Valkyrie,” the United Artists release that stars Tom Cruise.
In “Valkyrie,” not only do the Germans speak English (in this adaptation, in his radio address to the German people, even Hitler converses in perfect English. Suspending one’s state of disbelief is one thing, but this is asking a bit much), any sign of Nazi atrocities have been wiped virtually clean.
In one scene, Cruise (who plays Col. Claus von Stauffenberg) rants briefly about SS sins, but leads viewers to believe that the rest of the German army was a kindly group save that diabolical madman at the helm.
No mention of the millions lost to the Holocaust. No mention of the neighboring armies slaughtered by the Nazis. No explanation for why it took so long for the German hierarchy to finally get around to figuring a plan to kill Hitler.
“Valkyrie” deals with the July 20, 1944, attempt by German officers to assassinate Hitler. It was a failed attempt, but came close to succeeding.
It’s just hard to find much about “Valkyrie” that makes it a memorable movie.
As war movies go, it’s got a scene early on that’s set in North Africa that’s well done. American Flying Tigers strafe a German convoy, leaving many dead and von Stauffenberg badly wounded.
There’s also an impressive scene where German warbirds land and Hitler disembarks. The planes are magnificent creations and the aerial photography is beautiful.
But those scenes out of the way, “Valkyrie” fizzles.
It’s hard to remember that it’s even a war movie, what with all the endless talk involved.
With the exception of the SS troops, there’s almost no sign of a swastika on any of the German uniforms.
Hitler resembles a tottering businessman in bad need of a drink. Or a bath. Or maybe both.
Cruise is too handsome to portray a soldier mutilated by war. And he spends too much time scowling.
And what’s with the glass eye? Is it in or isn’t it? And is a glass eye really something you want to go around putting in people’s drinks when you want them to meet you for a secret conference in the toilet? Wouldn’t a nod in the direction of the men’s room be more appropriate?
The plot to kill Hitler may have been confusing, but “Valkyrie” sure doesn’t do much of a job explaining it.
Are the German troops on alert or not? Why are they supposed to be on alert? If you were risking your life in an attempt to assassinate the Fuhrer, wouldn’t you first be a bit more convinced everyone involved was fairly committed to the project?
(I realize I may have missed a bit of the explaining of parts of this in my only viewing of “Valkyrie,” and another trip to the theater may ease a tad of my confusion, but I’d prefer having bamboo shoots driven under my fingernails.)
Even World War II buffs will have a hard time making sense of this mess.
“Valkyrie” was directed by Bryan Singer (“Superman Returns”) and there are signs that the movie has been troubled from the get-go.
Tentative release dates varied from this past summer to next February.
Cruise’s co-stars include Kenneth Branagh as Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow, Billy Nighy as Gen. Friedrich Olbricht and Kevin McNally as Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a German politician who intends to become chancellor following the coup.
They’re all much more believable than Cruise, who seems less than a half-step removed from his pretty boy “Jerry Maguire” character.
(I kept expecting him to give Hitler a hug and cry, “You complete me!”)
“Valkyrie” isn’t hitting on much from the start, and it really nose-dives once the bomb explodes and Hitler survives.
(The audience, of course, is privy to this information while the conspirators aren’t, making the end a tad anti-climactic for all involved.)
War movies are at best difficult to make believable, and “Valkyrie” fails on just about all levels.

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