Something about a cast of predominantly British actors, including one American, playing German soldiers circa World War two, struck me as initially odd about Valkyrie, when it was announced almost two years ago. The film, director Bryan Singer’s first since Superman Returns, addresses this concern in a manner of speaking, at the very start, when the opening title card describing the films background, appears in German, and is then translated into English. Even the film’s title appears in German and blends, almost morphs in English. We hear the unmistakable voice of Tom Cruise, writing a letter, also speaking in German, with English translation. This continues for a few seconds until the German language segues into English and the film continues without any more language changes to distract us. In so doing, the film won me over with a clever construct – that everything we were about to view was a transliteration of the events that occurred in Germany. Though the film is intermittently thrilling, its foregone conclusion and its clunky start prevent it from being a surefire winner, which is a shame considering how convincing (and promising) those opening minutes are.

Valkyrie takes its name from the title of a botched operation, the historical and factual attempt that was made to assassinate Hitler by dissenters within his own inner circle who were convinced that the only way for the war to end was for Germany to surrender to the allies. That their endeavor never yielded the desired results is a moot point in Singer’s film and him, along with his scriptwriting partner Christopher McQuarrie, are smart enough to build tension from scenes that suggest how things could have gone wrong. Explosive briefcases mistakenly exchanged, last minute telephone calls, sweaty foreheads, the films brews its situations with crafty detail. It eventually becomes an interlocking tale of one gripping moment after the other, but not before it has spent a lot of time, too much perhaps, setting the foundations.

The team, lead by Cruise’s ambitious but flawed Colonel Stauffenberg, assemble and talk about a plan that takes forever to formulate. Like a heist film, pulling off this hit requires careful planning, but Valkyrie gets tied up in unnecessary detail. The opening scene, in Tunisia which highlights how Stauffenberg lost an eye, an arm and two fingers, doesn’t serve any purpose if the film isn’t willing to explore the motivations of Stauffenberg’s supposed act of treason. That scene might have been welcome, if the film suggested that Stauffenberg later actions were driven by his bodily sacrifice to Hitler and his ideology, and though this is suggested, it never actually happens. The script is hardly thematic – there are no great cerebral outbursts, no inner conflicts, no reasoning; what must be done, must be done, which is why waiting for the operation to commence becomes far less interesting than the operation itself. This is in direct contrast to more skillful films, such as last year’s highly improbably winner, The Bank Job, where the heist was as interesting as its meticulous plan. Still, Valkyrie delivers in only the way that a film from the director of The Usual Suspects can, by being effective and very watchable.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and