VALKYRIE TREADS A tightrope between thriller and tragedy, depicting a real-life conspiracy formed by a clutch of German officers to overthrow Hitler, a conspiracy that’s bound to fail. The plot begins with the officers recruiting Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise). Stauffenberg, with his commanding presence and the ominous eyepatch covering his lost eye, outlines a new plan which involves making use of an operation that’s already in existence: Operation Valkyrie.
Operation Valkyrie calls for a Reserve Army to be deployed in case of civil unrest. Stauffenberg’s plan is to hijack Operation Valkyrie and use it against the SS. This would give the conspiracy, and the new government, legitimacy. The success of the plan depends on two things. The first is the cooperation of the shifty chief of the Reserve Army General Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson), who, when faced with indirect overtures, makes it clear that as long as Hitler is alive there’s only one right side to be on. The second vital part of the conspiracy is the assassination of the Führer. The rest of the film follows the conspiracy as officers make their plan, execute it and eventually fail after a brief period of exhilaration where it seems like they will succeed.
The initial segment of the film is lost in figuring out who’s who as it strives hard to develop each character fully. Later, though, once the conspiracy begins, one gets more involved. There is a feeling of authenticity and an attention to detail that draws one in. The actors deliver solid performances. Tom Cruise exudes an insane confidence as Stauffenberg and the entire supporting cast turn in convincing performances, the best of which is Tom Wilkinson as the insecure, untrustworthy Fromm.
In the final reckoning, however, the movie tries too hard to be taken seriously, though the only message that comes across is the rather factual statement that there were some German officers who resisted the horrors of the Nazi regime. Perhaps we are meant to deal with the film as a thriller. Here too, though, surprisingly for a director who gave us the gripping action of the X-men series, the film leaves one completely detached. Apart from a few thrills, the movie serves more as a document of events than either an edge-of-the-seat rollercoaster or emotional drama. This Valkyrie never manages to take off.