Valkyrie DVD: Review By Brian Gallagher

Valkyrie, while a bit slow and somewhat difficult to follow, is a rather engaging true-story drama that tells a tale many haven’t heard before, and truly deserve to.
  • Feature
  • Picture
  • Sound
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
An amazing cast headlined by Tom Cruise and featuring Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Thomas Kretschmann and Eddie Izzard. Also the re-teaming of The Usual Suspects director and screenwriter, Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie.
I'm not terribly fond of the opening, as I thought it could've been a little more succinct, and the film can be tough to follow at times.
I remember when this was first announced that Tom Cruise's name, of course, got most of the press regarding this project. This was all post-couch-jumping, and right around the time Cruise saw his reign as the most bankable box office star end, with Will Smith taking over that title. I also remember, though, that I was incredibly excited about this film more because it reunited the director and screenwriter of one of my all-time favorite movies, The Usual Suspects, together after all these years. I'm also truly a sucker for true stories, and this World War II tale sounded like a doozy and, even though I was a bit worried with all the release date drama, this turned out to be quite a damn fine film.

There was one thing that bothered me about the trailer a bit, and I was kind of surprised that when I ended up watching the film for the first time, it really didn't bother me as much as I thought, and that it the sheer lack of Germanic presence in Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the man who spearheaded the final last-ditch effort within the Nazi organization to kill the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. In the trailer, he walked like Cruise walks in every movie, he talked like he talks in every movie, and I wasn't really sure if people would buy him as this historical German figure. While it wasn't a massive hit, it still rung up a solid $83 million at the domestic box office and gave us yet another fine performance from Tom Cruise.

The film isn't perfect, though, by any means. Whlie screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and his former assistant-turned-screenwriter Nathan Alexander do a terrific job with filling a lot of material into this 121-minute film, it doesn't get off to the fastest of starts here, with a far-too-long opening sequence that shows us both how Stauffenberg suffered his eye injury and the previous failed attempt at Hitler's life that is a very drawn-out and likely could've been done in a quicker flashback. It does seamlessly flow from the African attack that left Stauffenberg without his eye, to the previous failed attempt on Hitler's life, to recruiting Stauffenberg into the latest attempt... but a lot of this just doesn't seem terribly necessary to me. However, while it does take a while for this film to get its wheels, so to speak, when we do move forward with the main plot, the film certainly picks up steam rather nicely all the way up to the end. McQuarrie and Alexander do provide a sharp, very serious tone to the film, with only one tiny break for humor that I can think of, and they do a wonderful job of keeping you fully engrossed in this thrilling story until the end credits roll.

While Tom Cruise certainly gets the top line here, and deservedly so, with a subtly-powerful performance as Stauffenberg, we get quite a smashing cast in support as well. Tom Wilkinson simply shines - as he always does - as General Friedrich Fromm, a wonderful and rich character who you're never quite sure of, Bill Nighy is terrific - as always - as General Friedrich Olbricht, a Stauffenberg ally and Kenneth Branagh is great as Henning von Treskow, who starts these events in motion but, whose role wasn't quite as big as I thought it would've been. Also take note of fantastic and underrated German actor Thomas Kretschmann as Major Otto Remer, who gets caught in the middle of this plot and I was rather pleasantly surprised with funnyman Eddie Izzard as the plot's inside man, Erich Fellgiebel, since he shows off some nice dramatic chops here.

I was quite relieved that Bryan Singer was able to redeem himself here with a wonderful performance at the helm after the boring mess that was Superman Returns. Singer is an incredibly gifted director, capable of bringing out the best out of his actors, highlighting dramatic moments and even with a flair for action sequences as well. While Superman Returns relied so heavily on CGI and effects, this film relies more on Singer's gifts as a director, and the film is far better off because of it.

Valkyrie is quite a terrific action/war film that gives us no shortage of drama and engaging performances. It also shows us that it's been far too long for director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie since their amazing previous film, and I sincerely hope we don't have to wait this long to see them work together again.
You would think a two-disc special edition would be jammed with bonus features, but with this the age of the Digital Copy, the second disc is just said Digital Copy and we don't get a whole lot on the first disc. Aside from commentary tracks which I always disregard (it's annoying enough when people talk in movie theaters, let alone on the DVD, no matter who they are), the only features we get are two featurettes... but they are quite thorough indeed.

The first one, The Journey to Valkyrie, and we start off with writers Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, and how McQuarrie first heard of the story and how he and Alexander first started writing the film. We also hear from the likes of Phillip Von Schulthess, who is Colnel Staufenberg's grandson, and we hear about how McQuarrie started delving through this material and also how Bryan Singer, who grew up with McQuarrie in New Jersey, and how he came aboard. We also hear about how Tom Cruise came aboard, and it we see a picture of Staufenberg and how eerily similar he looked like Cruise. It's quite a wonderful little 16-minute featurette that delves into many aspects of the film and the historical implications of it.

The only other featurette we get here is The Valkyrie Legacy, which appears to be a doc*mentary that goes through the actual history of the events that lead up to the film. We hear from many notable historians hear about the events that drove the film. It's a wonderful companion piece to the film, and we even hear about some of the other attempts that were taken on Hitler's life, and that leads into Staufenberg's involvement and we get some back-story on him as well. We hear some intriguing stories from family members of the conspirators that helped shape the events of July 20. We see some incredible audio and video footage from certain Nazi propaganda trials and even some of the aftermath of the war ending with the conspirators family and how they suffered. It's quite a wonderful 40-minute film (which director Bryan Singer himself executive produced) that gives you more factual perspective on the film and a wonderful supplement on the DVD.
The disc is presented in the widescreen format, in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I'm kind of surprised they didn't go with a wider aspect ratio, with all the war action and such, but who am I to question Bryan Singer?
The sound is handled through the Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo format.
Again, I just got a screener disc here, but the front cover looks pretty much the same as the single-disc edition, only this is set off in a dark maroon instead of white, with a shot of Cruise up front and some of the main players in the conspiracy at either side of him in the background. Not sure what's on the back, but this looks a lot cooler with the maroon instead of the white.
Valkyrie, while a bit slow and somewhat difficult to follow, is a rather engaging true-story drama that tells a tale many haven't heard before, and truly deserve to.

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Comments (5)

  1. 313td

    Nice review.

    6 years agoby @313tdFlag

  2. Brian Gallagher

    Thanks friendos!

    6 years agoby @gallagherFlag

  3. Buckshot

    Good Review. You do have to stay with this one to get a sense. I feel as if they rushed the ending too soon after Stauffenberg was exposed.

    6 years agoby @buckshotFlag

  4. ed_wood

    This movie impressed me. Great review.

    6 years agoby @ed-woodFlag

  5. Shelley

    Another great review Gallagher. I agree, the beginning could have been better with a little less time spent on how Stauffenberg received his injuries. I would have also like to have seen a little more background of the main characters.

    6 years agoby @shelleyFlag