Valkyrie, the much-hyped and heavily advertised Tom Cruise action vehicle, opens on Christmas Day. After some reshoots were done last June, and after no fewer than four different release dates were announced—at one point, release was even going to be delayed until February 2009—everyone can now witness this amazing story told with lifeless imprecision.
Cruise’s character, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, was an important figure in German history who led a failed assassination attempt against Hitler called “Operation Valkyrie” in 1944, but director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men, Superman Returns) has turned Valkyrie from what could have been a captivating suspense thriller into a boring high school history class film strip.
|valkyrie, a movie directed by bryan singer. opens december 25 at theaters across the twin cities. for information, see moviefone.com.|
In a terrific opening action sequence, shot by Singer’s regular cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, we see how Stauffenberg lost his eye, hand, and a few of his fingers on the remaining hand; shortly after Stauffenberg’s recovery, Valkyrie dives into the assassination plot, with the events unfolding at a lethargic pace. Many unnecessary characters show up and contribute little or nothing to the plot (veteran actor Kenneth Branagh appears and then disappears for almost 90 minutes, only to show up in the woods for no apparent reason), and the tone of the film is all wrong. While there should have been suspense during a crucial bomb-planting scene, the event seemed as mundane as grabbing a newspaper; an unimportant phone call, on the other hand, is edited as though someone’s life were in the balance.
The film does provide some unintentional laughs, including scenes of Stauffenberg using his newly minted glass eye as a prop. Carrying it around in a metal box, he takes it out and puts it in as he pleases. In a very contrived scene, he also uses it as an ice cube to get someone’s attention. That eye gimmick was used to better effect in a far superior Cruise film, Minority Report.
Cruise is an actor capable of portraying rebels with a cause, but he stands out as the only American in an otherwise all-European cast. Why not cast a relatively unknown British or German actor to play Stauffenberg instead of slapping an eye patch on Maverick? Imagine if a young Shia LeBouf had been cast in place of Daniel Radcliffe in the Harry Potter series, with Jonathan Lipnicki playing Ron and Emma Roberts instead of Emma Watson as Hermione. If that sounds laughable, the same can be said about Cruise playing a German resistance officer. The only difference is that instead of a magic wand, he has a glass eye.
Jim Brunzell III (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes on film for the Daily Planet and hosts KFAI’s Movie Talk.