Thursday, January 8, 2009


I really liked Valkyrie. My wife and I went to it knowing it had gotten hit hard by the critics. We always tell ourselves not to put too much faith in the critics, and then find that we spend too much time on Rotten Tomatoes before picking out the next film expedition.

But we also noticed that the unifying complaint was over Tom Cruise--who is just about the easiest target in Hollywood these days. And if there's one thing you can say about Tom Cruise, it's that you know what to expect (except in Tropic Thunder...).

You get Tom Cruise. He's no Robert Duvall, but he plays Tom Cruise well. He has a certain force of personality. And for Valkyrie, that force works.

In any case, don't read the reviews for this film. Just read this review. It is exactly, perfectly accurate, and I can't say it any better. Just a sampling:

These critics are missing the larger meaning in the film - all of it is taken from history. When Kenneth Branagh’s General von Tresckow says, “God promised Abraham that he would not destroy Sodom if he could find ten righteous men… I have a feeling that for Germany it may come down to one,” it does not sound odd or out of place in the film. It is a statement of deep value. The real von Tresckow said, “The assassination must be attempted at all costs. Even if it should not succeed, an attempt to seize power in Berlin must be made. What matters now is no longer the practical purpose of the coup, but to prove to the world and for the records of history that the men of the resistance dared to take the decisive step. Compared to this objective, nothing else is of consequence.” No wonder that after von Tresckow committed suicide, making it look like a partisan attack to save others, the SS dug up his body and had it cremated.

Perhaps movie critics have become so jaded - and who wouldn’t become jaded after being bombarded by all the garbage Hollywood produces - that they have largely become unable to judge the films they are charged with reviewing. Or, perhaps the critics pay too much attention to the non-stop coverage of the Hollywood elite whom they think they know and often loathe as a result. I can’t admit to knowing much at all about actors or their personal lives. If, however, an actor makes a pronouncement about public policy, I do pay attention - long enough to scoff - unless, of course, the actor was someone like Jon Voight or Gary Sinise. This might explain the critics’ rush to dump on Cruise and Valkyrie. Cruise appears to be Hollywood’s equivalent to the kid who got picked on on the playground. He is an easy target. But without Cruise and the money from his United Artists studio, Valkyrie never would have been made in today’s largely shallow and inane Hollywood pool.

It's a chilling film, and a stirring one. Watching German soldiers round up SS officers and almost, just almost effect a coup against Hitler is really a bitter-sweet experience, and well worth the price of admission...