2009-01-09 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'Valkyrie' - Cruise's Kill-Hitler Coup
By Robert Snyder

The plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler was undermined by more than evil forces of the Third Reich in the film, "Valkyrie,"at the Green Acres Theater on Christmas Day. Hundreds of teenagers set the audience aglow with nonstop text messaging. It was enough to make star Tom Cruise pop from the screen in a leap worth the one on the Oprah TV show.

However, despite the cell-phone distraction, "Valkyrie" triumphs as a topnotch nail-biting suspense thriller, exonerating a group of high-level Nazis, who attempted to do right in the last months before the Allied World War II victory in Europe.

Led by Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Cruise), the conspirators create an elaborate scheme, which involves a contingency plan, called "Operation Valkyrie," requiring approval of the Fuehrer himself. According to the plan, if Hitler were to die, the German reserve army would arrest SS officials to prevent their government takeover. A high point of tension comes when von Stauffenberg brings the document to a decrepit, but still functioning Fuehrer (David Bamber) for his signature. Flawlessly directed by Bryan Singer ("X-Men"), the sequence holds the audience spellbound. Working with a razor-sharp Christopher McQuarre-Nathan Alexander screenplay, Singer brings together British acting elite (Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terrance Stamp, Tom Wilkinson) to support Cruise who maintains his American movie star charisma and accent, yet manages to mesh into the story that needs to be told.

After facing near death in North Africa, von Stauffenberg rises from his hospital bed minus an eye, a hand and several fingers, emboldened by his hatred of Hitler, to join the conspiracy cause, which he eventually heads, even becoming the carrier of the bomb into the bunker, where the Fuehrer is holding a secret military meeting.

While others, including General Friedrich Olbricht (Nighy) and General Friedrich Fromm (Wilkinson), are less than secure about the scheme, von Stauffenberg never veers from his total commitment. Though the plight of Jews in concentration camps is mentioned, it is clear that von Stauffenberg's allegiance is to the betterment of the Fatherland. The question is...where is Cruise's allegiance? In fact, his devotion to Scientology almost prevented him from filming in the Fatherland.

Nonetheless, Valkyrie is an important film about individuals who defied one of history's greatest monsters. While the conspiracy might have come far too late, it was thought that could have counted.

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