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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

VALKYRIE (2008)

This fact-inspired WWII drama about a conspiracy of senior German officers to assassinate Hitler is big, handsome and slightly dull; an honest attempt at the craftsmanlike, old-fashioned, impersonal filmmaking of early ‘60s pros like Robert Wise & John Sturges. (No doubt megger Bryan Singer & star Tom Cruise did some serious pre-production male-bonding over THE GREAT ESCAPE/’63.) A deep-dish line-up of British talent (Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Terrence Stamp, Eddie Izzard, et al.) does Cruise no favors, his tight, toneless whisper only exposes his technical limitations & undercuts his authority, but he keeps your attention with a raft of physical handicaps (glass eye, missing digits, missing hand) and a great hair cut. Luft-styling. But the film never quite delivers on its promise, shortchanging suspense & emotional involvement. Back when, Wise & Sturges would have risked a logy opening reel or two to get their characters & story lines situated. They paced with the long view in mind, knowing that the third act payoffs would ‘tell’ all the better if properly set up. VALKYRIE’s script has plenty of big dramatic opportunities (one featuring a roomful of female communication attendants is, conceptually, a knock-out), but Singer hasn’t the patience (or perhaps wasn’t allowed the elbow room) to till his dramatic soil and get the big moments to ‘land.’ Still, the history is plenty fascinating and it’s been a while since Cruise successfully subdued his cringe-inducing grin and scary over-enthusiasm.

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