Sunday, December 28, 2008


"Es lebe heiliges Deutschland!"

With those words still on his lips, a German firing squad ended the life of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg following a failed assassination and attempted coup. With any luck, it will also end Tom Cruise's desire to play Wehrmacht officers in otherwise decent movies. As noted below, I suspected that Cruise was miscast for the role of von Stauffenberg in the film Valkyrie. Unfortunately, I was right. His performance was a bit stiff and his accent jarring. Everyone knows that Germans speak with English accents in "B" grade WW II movies and Cruise's accent was American. Nondescript American, at that.

The film suffered from a couple of flaws - one inherent and the other not. The story could only end in one way and stay true to history, so if you are historically literate at all there aren't any surprises. The other is that there wasn't enough focus on Von Stauffenberg to draw you into his character, although this may have been exacerbated by Cruise's performance. I would have been interested in seeing a little more of the relationship between Claus and Nina, his wife - played by Carice van Houten, who was largely wasted. And Dutch. She had a better English accent than Cruise too.

I don't think Valkyrie is the definitive movie on Von Stauffenberg, but I suspect that movie will be German, directed by someone like Oliver Hirschbiegel (of Der Untergang) and acted by Germans, in German.

With American subtitles.

Or maybe English subtitles for you purists out there.

Oddly, Christian Berkel and Thomas Kretschmann, both veteran German actors who appeared in Downfall (Der Untergang) had better English accents than Cruise. No-one had a better English accent than Kenneth Brannagh, though. Not even Bill Nighy.

The movie managed to overcome Cruise and actually was a fairly engaging thriller, easily comparable to the better WW II historical dramas of the 60's and 70's. It was competently directed and well acted - Cruise excepted - and the Germans all had commendably English accents. Except for the main character.

I do recommend Valkyrie, but don't be afraid to wait for video. If you must have stars ... 3-1/2 (out of 5)

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