It was one hell of a “Merry Christmas!”—but that’s what the studios said to us when they released Valkyrie, Tom Cruise’s “plot against Hitler” Nazi pic, on Christmas Day 2008. Pass the yuletide yams—a Bryan Singer/Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) reunion might have done better business with a different release date. Valkyrie is actually a fine film, once you get over Singer’s somewhat distracting choice to let all the actors—American, English or otherwise—speak with their own accents. What he does well is maintain a tight wire of tension despite the fact that we all know how Hitler came to his end (here I give humanity the benefit of the doubt). Like The Reader, released around the same time, the interesting question this film asks is “What did the Germans really think about the Nazis?” and “Why didn’t they do anything about it?” Was everything real casual? Proud Americans would react differently to tyranny, we like to think, but until we watch a hundred movies in their shoes, we don’t really know.
EXTRAS: An excellent Ken Burns documentary about the real facts of the Valkyrie plot lets you know what was fact and fiction about the movie (and how closely Cruise actually resembled Stauffenberg.)