Thursday, June 18, 2009

Valkyrie (2008)

One sure sign of fantastic filmmaking is the ability to create tension or suspense when the outcome is already known.  This movie achieves this – assuming you’re aware how WWII ended and Hitler’s death really occurred.  The suspense in the movie reaffirms that Bryan Singer is a top-tier filmmaker, no matter what his misgivings in the genre of comic book adaptations.

Valkyrie is also the reuniting of Singer with Chris McQuarrie.  They had collaborated before on The Usual Suspects, one of my all time favorite movies.   Singer has been lost in comic book movies for 10 years, McQuarrie… who knows where.  These guys should just keep making movies together.  It’s obviously a stellar paring when they collaborate.

Although Valkyrie features great storytelling, a good cast (yes, even Tom Cruise), and a lot of polish,it drags at parts.  The last 30-45 minutes are where the movie shines.  Some of the first half are overlong, and, as usual, the movie could easily have had 30 minutes cut out of it.  If I was in charge of film studios, I’d take every script, rip out 20-30 pages at random and tell the writer to make the plot fit.  Movies should have a major reason to be longer than 100 minutes.  This is one reason I can’t bring myself to watch Benjamin Button.  Seriously, 3 hours? Didn’t they already tell this story of a guy aging backwards with Jonathan Winter on Mork & Mindy?

Anyway, Valkyrie does have one serious downfall and that’s that it is in the category of the Docu-Drama.  I’ve railed against Docu-Dramas before on this blog.  Fortunately, this one isn’t politically charged like W or The Reagans.  It’s hard to argue against hating Hitler, right?

The problem with Docu-Dramas is that the devil is in the details.  It’s mentioned a few times in this movie that the conspirators want to overthrow Hitler because of his evildoings in concentration camps and such.  Frankly, I think this is fiction and their motivations are probably not that noble.  The men involved with this plot were already very established in Hitler’s government.  They put their various plots into motion back in 1938, well before the concentration camps had been created (in fact, Poland, site of Auschwitz, had not even been invaded).  No, the best guess should be that they were power hungry themselves.  When the Allies successfully defeated Nazi Germany, would top men in Hitler’s government be installed into the new regime?  Hell no.  But if they had gotten their coup and declared a truce with the Allies, they would have been able to hold onto that power.  

This is a far more likely explanation of motivation.  But, for the purposes of the Docu-Drama, it’s better to have them want to kill Hitler because of concentration camps.  It helps us root for the protagonist, whereas I’m not so sure we’d root for a power-hungry Nazi underling who just wants to take over and doesn’t give a damn about death camps.

JSS Rating:  Good/Good.  It was supposed to be a good movie, and it was a good movie.

1 comment:

Teddy said...

It's been a while since I saw this movie but my recollection was much more that they saw him desperately unwilling to surrender in what was obviously a losing war and that they were all going to get dragged to the gallows for his crimes against humanity, so they made a plot to kill him and seize power so they could surrender to the allied powers and make a bid for mercy (which, under such circumstances likely would have been given a good bit of consideration).

My thoughts. If I'm completely off, do let me know.