Valkyrie is the tale of how Tom Cruise and Eddie Izzard traveled through time to kill Hitler. Ok… it’s not, but that would have been a way funnier movie. But Valkyrie is the story of the final of 15 separate plots to assassinate Das Fuhrer. And while I’m glad they didn’t make it funny (good luck making Hitler funny, it’s not easy, just check this very short lived British sitcom). But Cruise and company made a damn compelling film.
Cruise (War of the Worlds, Scientology) portrays German Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, mastermind of the Valkyrie plan. The original Valkyrie plan was a government restructuring plan to be implemented in the event of Hitler’s death. After climbing the ranks of Germany’s military, Stauffenberg is able to redraft it so he and his cohorts would be in charge, effectively putting an end to Hitler’s Germany. The film follows the path from development to failed execution, and the risks each men take to see it through to the finish.
The first thing that piqued my interest in this project was the amazing cast assembeled. In addition to Cruise’s strong performance, we also get magnificent work from Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead), Tom Wilkinson (RocknRolla), Terrence Stamp (Get Smart) and Izzard (Ocean’s 13). While Cruise puts forth a great performance, the movie would be nothing without the supporting cast.
I kind of want to ask director Bryan Singer what his fascination with Nazi Germany is. First he did Apt Pupil, about an ex-Nazi. Then X-Men, with Magneto being a holocaust survivor. Now Valkyrie. Not that it’s led him astray. He’s just like…. the poor man’s Spielberg (and to further that connection, Spielberg was listed as a producer on NBC’s ER a full 10 years prior to Singer being listed as a producer on FOX’s House, MD).
But all that aside… he does a great job with the material. My main worry about this film going in was the direction. Singer could have dragged it out, run all sorts of circles around himself before he got to the point. But no. He kept the movie tight, and pace on a nice easy flow. It kicks right off with Stauffenberg being unhappy with Hitler’s vision for Germany, jumps to the plot to kill him, and doesn’t stop till the conspirators are rounded up and executed. It’s a very well paced thriller.
As far as historical political thrillers go, I would count this one on par with All The Presidents Men and JFK. Only… with Hitler.
Hey you know who else was in this movie…. nevermind.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sometimes a 3 hour movie is overly long on time and overly short on actual reason for being 3 damn hours long. Benjamin Button is not like that. It’s a thoroughly engrossing story that keeps you in the moment and in the story for the entire run time. Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett have never been better.
Benjamin Button is a man born old. I don’t mean he’s mature for his age. He was literally born an 80 year old man, and is aging backwards. After his parents abandon him at a New Orleans retirement home, Benjamin (Pitt) quickly bonds with the home’s residents and the caretakers (Taraji P. Henson and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali) become his adopted parents. We get to watch him live his life… backwards. From a young-old man to an old-young man, and how his reverse aging affects his personal and professional life. He has affairs with much older women, he travels the world. But he always comes back to his one true love, Daisy (Blanchett), who has grown up (normally) alongside Benjamin.
In my opinion, Pitt (Snatch) is one of the most under-estimated actors of this generation. When looking not just at his body of work, but his performances in those films, you really can’t deny that he really is a damn fine actor, if not one of the best working right now. And this role as Button is another highlight in his career. He brings a subtlety, and a warmth to the character that I think we may have lost with some other actors.
And Blanchett (Babel) continues her reign as one of the best actresses in Hollywood. There’s a charm, and grace she brings to the film.
Director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club) continues to bend your mind with his bold look at interesting stories. What I like about Fincher’s take on the story, is that he forces the audience to accept that Button ages backwards without explanation, by himself accepting it without explanation. A lesser director would have attempted a half assed explanation, or try to give some big grand explanation that ends up seeming ludicrous and taking you completely out of the story. But by diving into the story, we’re pulled along with him into it, and I ultimately didn’t care that I didn’t know why he aged backwards.
For an engaging life story, that’s light fun, but great story, definitly check out this flick.