Published on May 22nd, 2009 | by Chris2
Valkyrie (2008, Blu-Ray)
In 1944, a segment of the German Army was fed up with what Hitler was doing to the country, and put into motion a series of events that nearly resulted in success. Nearly.
Valkyrie is a telling of that story. Revolving around Col. Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) we see the events unfold from his days in North Africa, until his execution (spoilers? you know how it ended!) after the failed attempt on Hitler's life in the "Wolf's Lair" bunker....
Alright, so Valkyrie really isn't a "war movie" per-se, lets just get that over with right now. I'd classify it more along the lines of "mystery/thriller/docudrama" more than anything. If you're looking for action and scenes of combat, this isn't it. The story is intriguing, and this telling really is engaging, but the truth is, we know how its going to end, so its like watching someone build a model or put together a puzzle that we know what the end result will be.
Performance wise I have to say that nobody really stands out as having a really good day. The cast goes through all the right motions and they act like good staunch Germans... but I can't really recall anything that stood out as great. There are a lot of familiar faces, to be sure, too many to try to list. And the potrayals of the Nazi high command seem to be cardboard cutouts of their stereotypes, Hitler included. He is portrayed here as a forgetful, absent-minded putz, rather than a raving lunatic.
The production however is another story, brilliantly pulled off, and quite epic at times. The shots of the Berlin "government quarter" with the rows of flags and such are really quite good. Most everything else, however takes place behind closed doors, or behind the fences of the Wolf's Lair.... With the notable exception of the well-done attack scene at the beginning. The HD Master audio sound was brilliant, but at times the quiet scenes were, well, too quiet. And there were a lot of them.
What really drove me nuts though, and I've noticed this on a few new Blu-ray releases, was the presence of (for lack of a better term) low light digital noise in some of the darker scenes. It was obvious these scenes were shot in HD video rather than on film, and this difference was even more noticable when the edit would change to a similar scene without the noise. I would think that these things could be cleared up during post. Or maybe it was just my equipment, I'm not sure. I didn't see it on the big screen, or on regular DVD, so I can't comment on whether or not it was there all along, but the fact it came and went, and only on certain shots lead me to the conclusion that someone cheaped out bigtime.
The other part of it is that in order to actually "get into" the film, you need to somehow find it within yourself to side with Stauffenberg and the rest of the dissenting Germans. Depending on your prejudices that might be a tricky task. It would help if there were really something more to grab on to. I kept hoping there would be more exploration of how these decisions affected his family. But alas, we are only given a fleeting glimpse into that as he hunkers in the bomb shelter with them, and as his wife is leaving for safer shelter....
Ultimately I think Valkyrie turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. A beautiful picture to look at (despite the aforementioned problems) but lacking in substance. I have to succumb and only lay a 6/10. Sorry, United Artists, you're going to have to do better!
Summary: Valkyrie turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. A beautiful picture to look at (despite the aforementioned problems) but lacking in substance.