Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Valkyrie

valkyrie.jpg
Everyone looks exactly like this throughout the ENTIRE film.

At first glance, it seems like Valkyrie can't fail. A taut political thriller based on a true story that involves tragedy, honor, betrayal and suspense - definite Oscar candidate, right? I mean, how can you lose with the planned assassination of Hitler? Especially with an action-packed, thrillingly cut trailer?

I think it says a lot that I was 100x more entertained by the Q&A hosted by The Warren Report's Warren Etheredge with (Co)Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie than I was by the film. And I was also very confused. Since McQuarrie explained the actual events with such passion, describing in detail the research and co-writing he had done with Nathan Alexander - and I'm a fan of everything else Director Bryan Singer has done, I wondered how the story got lost in translation.

I have a theory: if you're aiming to create a great film with all German characters - maybe filling your cast with famous Brits (Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp - and,AePEddie Izzard) and putting an American (not just any American actor - THE Tom Cruise) in the starring role is not the wisest move. I'm guessing I'm not going to be the only one disconcerted with Cruise reading a diary entry in German at the beginning of the film, and then switching to American dialog for the rest.

I know, I know - they do it all the time. But I can't help but think that maybe I'd feel a little differently if either a) there were just ALL British actors speaking in their British accents, or b) (and I know this is crazy) German actors. I hear there are a few that can act.
Sadly, as it is, all this film amounts to is a lot of close-ups of an eye-patched, one-handed Tom Cruise looking severely anguished (except when wearing his glass eye - than the shots are as far away as possible and heavily filtered), and long, loaded glances from the other conspirators. I didn't feel a connection to any of the characters - especially not Cruise's Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg - and even though they did their best to suspend it, I'm pretty sure everyone knows how their plan turns out.

A couple of moments that made me visibly cringe: First, a slow motion close-up of the Stauffenberg's adorable blond-haired child doing the Hitler salute for the Colonel's homecoming. Really? Slow motion, even?? Then, during a touching goodbye scene, Singer zooms in on Stauffenberg's wife (Clarice van Houten) clutching her stomach with over-the-top emotion as Cruise tells her to "take care of the family". Get it? GET IT?? Also, I don't want to ruin anything, but there's one pivotal line uttered by Stauffenberg with the worst. delivery. ever. That and the last shot of Le Cruise will haunt me forever, and not in a good way.

This movie definitely screams "Nominate me for an Oscar" - but although all the cues were there, and I heard audience members responding to them with uncomfortable laughter (omg. I can't believe they just made a Nazi joke!!) and shocked gasps - I don't think it's going to succeed.
But, I could be wrong. I'm sure that plenty of people will think I'm giving this too hard of a time. And even if the usually fantastic duo of Singer & McQuarrie couldn't make it happen - it's possible legions of Tom fans will push it through to success. As long as the Director and Screenwriter are still around to make better movies, I won't complain - too much.
Valkyrie opens on December 25th, Christmas Day (FYI: according to McQuarrie, that's the release date Cruise wanted all along,AeP)

2 comments:

  1. For awhile, Cruise was on a roll there--Eyes Wide Shut, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, etc.--but now he can't seem to set a foot right. Same with his wife, Katie Holmes, who starred this year in Mad Money and opted not to appear in The Dark Knight...opening the door to a superior actress. Cruise wasn't bad in Tropic Thunder, but that part would've worked better as a cameo.

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  2. so True, Kathy. I blame Scientology. :)
    Also, SO happy that Maggie took over Rachel in Dark Knight. I love, love, LOVE that woman!

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