Even though we are very aware how this true story ends, Valkyrie still surprisingly manages to be one of the better suspense thriller of the year.
We all know Adolf Hitler did not die as a result of an organized assassination plot against him, but this fact does not hinder the enjoyment of watching how that attempt by members of his own Nazi command plays out. Reminiscent of great '60s WWII conspiracy thrillers such as 36 Hours and Night of the Generals, this film centers on the actions of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), a loyal German officer, who nevertheless is horrified by what he sees Hitler doing to his country and is determined to find a way to stop him. In 1942, he tries to persuade senior commanders to overthrow Hitler, and later in 1943, while recovering from combat injuries, he joins the German Resistance, a secretive anti-Hitler group comprised of several men in the highest ranks on the inside. Using Hitler's own contingency plan, labeled Operation Valkyrie, to prop up the government should he die, this group puts their assassination and take over plan in motion.
As the eye patch-wearing SS colonel, Tom Cruise is excellent. He comfortably manages to get to the heart of Stauffenberg and portray a man who clearly loves his country and feels it's a patriotic duty to stop the madness. Wisely Cruise (who produced through his United Artists studio) surrounds himself with actors of the first stripe. Among those supporting the mission are: Kenneth Branagh, in a relatively brief turn as an German officer; Bill Nighy, as one of von Stauffenberg's closest allies in the venture; and Eddie Izzard, as a communications specialist charged with cutting Hitler's contact to the rest of Germany. There's also superb work from Terence Stamp as another high-ranking conspirator and the always great Tom Wilkinson, as career officer Fredrick Fromm who seems to be playing all sides despite appearing to be a stern supporter of the Fuhrer. And as Stauffenberg's loyal wife, Carice van Houten (Black Book) looks lovely and hits just the right notes as her husband's sounding board.
Although he has guided big popcorn pictures such as Superman Returns and X-Mens, director Bryan Singer has also given us intense thrillers like the Oscar winning Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. So, the command he shows in turning out this nifty thriller should come as no surprise. Clearly, Singer knows how to grab hold of an audience and keep them on the edge of their seats -- no easy trick here since the outcome is never in doubt. He keeps this going like a speeding train, ratcheting up the suspense at every turn and focusing his camera directly into the eyes and sweat of these courageous conspirators. Valkyrie is a pulse-pounding, heart-racing excitement from start to finish.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 1/2 stars.