Ever the stalwart hero, Tom Cruise takes on the Nazis in Valkyrie, but it proves to be a losing effort for the actor, his character and the picture itself.
Based on a true event that occurred in 1944, this handsome yet emotionally distant film centers on the efforts of a group of proud Germans to assassinate Adolf Hitler and wrest control away from the murderous tyrants (i.e. the SS) who served under him. Chief among these conspirators is Colonel Stauffenberg (Cruise), who, just like the progressives here in our own country this year, is willing to fight the fascists for change that he can believe in. Aided by a mix of officers, soldiers and politicians (among the familiar players are Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard and Terence Stamp), Stauffenberg initially seems to triumph in his mission impossible, only to ... well, we all know how history turned out.
Only marginally involving, Valkyrie is defeated by a thin script that fails to flesh out a single character, instead employing them all as pawns in a chess match in which the deck is already heavily stacked. Worse, the plan as presented in Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander's script doesn't sound like an especially sound one, and Stauffenberg's handling of his assignment makes him come across as a careless bungler. While the denseness of the good guys in no way ennobles the enemy, it does make them seem like the more worthy combatants. For better or worse, then, Valkyrie brings to mind that classic line from The Producers' "Springtime for Hitler" musical number: "Don't be stupid; be a smarty. Come and join the Nazi party!"