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Non-Review Review: Valkyrie

We caught Valkyrie at the weekend. It’s a movie that Dad had been quite looking forward to and I’d heard good things from friends and family. I’m a big fan of Bryan Singer and was more than a bit excited to see him reteam with Christopher McQuarrie. The pair had given us one of the best neo-noir films ever in The Usual Suspects, but how do they deliver on historical epics?

Couldn't be more badass if he tried...

Couldn't be more badass if he tried...

I’m not really sure. The film is solid, reliable and well-constructed. The movie starts fairly slowly and gradually builds its momentum before moving into a stronger, more rollicking second half. I’m a bit surprised at this. I knew – as I assume most viewers familiar with European history can like likely infer – the outcome of the plot, and I didn’t expect the movie to engage so much once the ball was in play. It’s to the credit of Singer (and most of his cast) that he can keep you enthralled and on the edge of your seat even though you already know the outcome.

That said, I’m surprised he can’t bring more to the first half of the film. Maybe it is because the first half is overcrowded, or maybe it’s just unnecessarily slow, but the film takes a while to get where it needs to be. The bulk of the very distinguished cast – in particular Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann and Kenneth Branagh – seem out of place and under utilised. It’s an odd complaint to have that a film is too well-cast, but very few of the roles seem to go anywhere.

The core of the ensemble – the eternally underrated Terrence Stamp, the frequently miscast Bill Nighy and the always reliable Tom Wilkinson – are great and Tom Cruise anchors the film superbly. The character of Von Stauffenberg is larger than life (the writing staff reportedly considered allowing him to keep his eye as an eye patch would be just too badass), but Cruise manages to dig around inside and find the man amid the walking awesomeness that the character embodied. Cruise is criminally underrated as an actor, and he’s unlikely to win many new converts based on a deftly understated performance.

The film is well constructed to be sure – Singer manages scale very well and some of his shots are incredible – but it seems to lack heart. Maybe because we already know the ending, or maybe because the film’s plot-within-plot structure is too mechanical for organic growth or development. It isn’t superb or outstanding, and it doesn’t stand as the career highlight of anyone involved, but it isn’t a bad movie by any means.
Valkyrie is directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) and stars Tom Cruise (Collateral, Tropic Thunder), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, Pirates of the Carribbean: At World’s End), Terrence Stamp (Bowfinger, Superman II), Eddie Izzard (The Cat’s Meow, Prince Caspian), Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet, Frankenstein), Thomas Kretschmann (Downfall, Wanted), Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, Michael Clayton) and Kevin McNally (Spooks, Life on Mars). It was released in the United States on Christmas Day 2008, but the UK and Ireland didn’t get it until the 23rd January.

3 Responses

  1. […] Usual Suspects is directed by Bryan Singer (X-Men, Valkyrie) and stars Gabriel Byrne (Enemy of the State, Stigmata), Benecio del Toro (Che, Traffic), Kevin […]

  2. […] to simply ‘countdown’ to the big title event. We know that the Titanic will sink. In Valkyrie, we know that the plot will fail. Here we know no such thing. It makes sense. The movie already […]

  3. […] while others are hamfisted and cynical. Not all of them were particularly obvious either. Take Valkyrie. It kinda got lost in the mediocrity of the film itself, but the picture was generating […]

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