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An amazing story of sacrifice.
Tom Cruise Stars in "Valkyrie."
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $50,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

January 14th, 2008: The thriller is based on actual events, as German generals hatch a scheme to assassinate Adolph Hitler at the height of WWII.

What to Expect: The phrase "history will judge us" cannot be any truer than when applied to Claus von Stauffenberg. Stauffenberg was an officer in the German army during World War II, but unlike many of his compatriots, he refused to except Nazi dogma. Instead he continued to serve his country, while secretly opposing Hitler and his henchmen. As German fortunes faltered in the later years of WWII, Stauffenberg decided to take action. In 1944, he and a handful of co-conspirators in army ranks hatched an extremely ambitious high-risk, high-reward plan to remove the Nazis from power and to end the war. Unfortunately, his plan was not successful and led to his execution. However, his actions did show the world that Fascists were do not represent all the German people. In post war Germany he was recognized as a hero of an era when the country had so many villains. His actions have been publicized countless times in his home country in many books, movies and documentaries, yet his story has not really been told on an international stage as of yet. That is all going to change in 2008 with the release of Valkyrie, a big budget Hollywood movie about the July 20th plot to kill Hitler. This movie will give a suspenseful account of the planning and assassination, as well as the heroism of those involved. It is the type of movie that will truly entertain and enlighten people about this monumental event and make the German people proud of their hero: Claus Von Stauffenberg.

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Stauffenberg came from one of the richest and most distinguished Roman Catholic families in Germany. As a result, he enjoyed the finest education that money and family connections could afford him. Then in 1930, in accordance with family tradition, Stauffenberg joined the military, which happened to be same time that Hitler and the Nazis came to power. From the onset he did not agree with most of their policies in regards to religion and minorities, but did agree with the nationalistic agenda of conquest especially in Poland. He continued to practice his religion although it was discouraged by the Nazi party. As the war progressed Stauffenberg witnessed more and more atrocities first hand, becoming even more disillusioned with Hitler's policies. His personal morals and religious beliefs prevented him from supporting such amoral behavior. He soon became involved in the German underground that opposed the Fascist regime. From 1942 on, he was actively involved in various plots to assassinate the dictator. Then in 1943 he suffered a huge setback while serving in Africa; his jeep was strafed by allied airplanes causing him to lose a total of seven fingers and his left eye. He took the injuries in good humor and never allowed them to slow him down. This is where the movie picks up his story.

Upon his return to Germany, he began to plan Operation Valkyrie with other sympathetic officers in the German military. The plan consisted of two phases. First the assassination of Hitler with a suitcase bomb placed at his feet. Then seizing control of the government and eliminating all of Hitler's institutions like the Gestapo and SS. Everything depended on killing Hitler, since every soldier in the German army swore a personal allegiance to the dictator, and the only way to release them from this oath was to kill him. But this was no easy task. Hitler was extremely well protected, since he was the most hated person in the world with numerous conspiracies against him constantly being planned by both internal and external forces. Thus, Hitler's movements were extremely unpredictable and he always traveled with a huge security detail. He also had the Gestapo, one of the best and most ruthless security agencies. The conspirators patiently waited for months for an opportunity for one of them to get near Hitler. Finally on July 20th, Stauffenberg got his opportunity and actually managed to get close enough to place a suitcase bomb within a few feet of the dictator and detonate it. Thinking that Hitler was dead, Stauffenberg flew to Berlin to launch the second phase. However, Hitler was shielded from the blast by the leg of the table he was sitting at and escaped with minor injuries. All the conspirators were arrested and executed.

In retrospect, it was pretty miraculous that they even got that close. First of all, Stauffenberg was forced to get a lot of people involved in the conspiracy, and it is frankly amazing he was not discovered. Secondly, just the fact that Stauffenberg was able to assemble and arm the bomb with only three fingers is pretty miraculous in itself. As you can see this is a very suspenseful story, but a challenging one as well, considering that anyone who knows history or read this article already knows what is going to happen. Thus it is very important that the cast and director do a good job of developing the characters and really highlight their heroism and personal sacrifice.

This movie is being produced and directed by Bryan Singer with a script written by Singer's high school buddy, Christopher McQuarrie, whose plan is to have the movie be split into two parts. The first, showing all the events leading up to the day of the assassination, and the second, the actual day. Singer and McQuarrie are best known for bringing us The Usual Suspects and X-Men. Both movies stand out for their well developed characters, which is extremely important for this movie. Singer approached Tom Cruise's struggling United Artists studio for financing after Cruise's well publicized falling out with Paramount over his involvement in Scientology. Singer was able to get eighty million from UA to fund the movie, but he also wanted something else, he wanted Cruise to star. It seemed a natural choice since Cruise bares an uncanny resemblance to the German officer. Cruise, for his part, loved the screenplay saying "my hands were sweating as I read it" and had a lot of respect for both Singer and McQuarrie. He eagerly agreed, not knowing of the problems ahead.

Many people in Germany were opposed to Cruise playing their national hero, since Scientology is considered a cult in many countries of the EU. The head of the German Protestant Church, Thomas Gandow, even compared Scientology to fascism and labeled Cruise the religion's Joseph Goebbels , which is a little harsh in my opinion. Even Stauffenberg's son, Berthold, went on record to oppose Cruise bluntly saying "he should keep his hands off my father." Cruise did have his supporters and Stauffenberg's grandson, Phillipp, was even a part of the cast. This was obviously done more for publicity's sake since Phillipp was born after his father was long dead. Most importantly, Singer never wavered from his choice because, despite Cruise's apparent craziness, he is a pretty darn good actor.

It always seems that on the surface he is the same in his movies, but that is not truly a fair assessment. Cruise always does the little subtle things that are not often noticeable, but serve to build a well rounded character and this time is not going to be much different. To prepare, Cruise got used to wearing an eye patch and only using three fingers. Wearing the eye patch was especially challenging for two reasons: First, the eye is the window to the soul and is one of the primary ways an actor shows emotion, and only being able to use one makes the task much more difficult. Secondly, having only one eye limits your depth perception and Cruise had to learn to be able to move around naturally just like Stauffenberg did. I think Cruise definitely nailed these aspects of his character very well. Working with him were many popular German and British actors like Kenneth Branagh, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Jamie Parker, Christian Berkel and Thomas Kretschmann. Unfortunately, many Germans could only see a crazy American Scientologist desecrating their national hero, instead of a talented international cast paying homage to him.

Consequently, scrutiny followed the shoot everywhere they went. The smallest event was blown up and fiercely debated in the media. Something as small as when a few cast members were lightly injured falling off of a truck during a shoot made headlines in every paper. At one point, the German government even banned them from shooting at any of their military sites including the Bendlerblock where the plan was originally created and now serves as a memorial to the plotters and other German resistance fighters. The official reason the ministry gave was that they feared that filming the movie on location would damage or desecrate the site, but many officials made it no secret that the reason was their distaste for Cruise and his beliefs. Singer was devastated by this development because he really wanted the movie to be authentic and the locations were a huge part of that. Fortunately, the government eventually backed off their stance claiming that reading the script was the deciding factor, but it was pretty clear that the Germans actually realized that they were acting extremely intolerantly. Ironically, the hard fought footage inside the Bendlerblock was partially destroyed during editing and had to be re-shot causing major delays and budgetary problems.

In Conclusion: It looks like UA finally has a winner. Singer and McQuarrie took one of the most interesting and least documented stories of WWII and made it into one of the best movies of 2008. Valkyrie features a talented cast that will get you emotionally involved with all the characters and keep you on the edge of your seat until its tragic end. It looks like Stauffenberg will now be credited with another miracle: Saving Tom Cruise's career and UA.

Similar Titles: The Usual Suspects, Battle of the Bulge, Blind Spot - Hitler's Secretary
December 25th, 2008 (wide)
May 19th, 2009 (DVD)

United Artists

Bryan Singer

Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Carice van Houten, Eddie Izzard, Halina Reijn, Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Wilson, Stephen Fry, Kevin McNally, Christian Berkel, Terence Stamp, David Schofield, Jamie Parker, Thomas Kretschmann

Total: 115 vote(s).


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Rated PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.

120 min

English, German



Valkyrie at Trailer Addict

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