Valkyrie (2008)

Film review: Valkyrie (2008), directed by Bryan Singer

valkyrie2008It’s been a while since we saw this film now, but seeing it on a shelf in Asda today reminded me that I still hadn’t written a review.

It’s about a bunch of Nazis who thinks the war is a bad idea and plan to assassinate Hitler, and the movie follows them and their plotting and attempt to seize power of the nation. And, ultimately, failing. I wouldn’t class it as a spoiler, considering anyone who’s at all clued up on history (which, according to an article I read last night on the BBC News site, youths in India are not) already knows they failed. And if you don’t like parentheses, go back and read it and click on the link and read the article. Scary, isn’t it?

“Well, Hitler killed a whole bunch of people, but we’re sort of okay with that because WOW, look at how efficient the guy was! Made the trains run on time and everything! Sorted the over-crowding problem well out. We’ll have one of them Führers to sort out our own country, please.” It’s just a tragically flawed reasoning and I’m amazed (and terrified) at how stupid humans can be sometimes.

Have we really reached the point where we can reduce genocide to a shrug because the man behind it all had “mad leadership skillz”? Yes, maybe he did make the trains run on time, but considering those trains were full of men, women and children who were taken to death camps and systematically either enslaved or slaughtered (or first enslaved and then slaughtered) … those aren’t the kind of trains you want to run on time, because they shouldn’t be run PERIOD!

Sorry for going somewhat off-topic, but that article really bugs me.

Operation Valkyrie was the real deal. They really did plot to kill the Führer and take control of the country. The movie, however, is partly real and partly made up. What was interesting was that when we rented this movie, we also rented Inglorious Basterds (WW2, completely made up) and Defiance (WW2, based on a true story). Valkyrie fits somewhere in the middle, in two ways, one I have already mentioned. Inglorious Basterds was about a group of Americans going to Europe to (in a broad Southern accent) “kill Nazis”. Defiance was about a group of Jews in Belarus trying to survive hidden away in the woods.

Valkyrie is different, in the way that it stars the Nazis, and not as the baddies. No, we’re talking “good” Nazis here. After all, a lot of people were members of the National Socialist party without actually sharing the party’s views, simply because not being a member would have made them look suspicious, and in a country where you couldn’t trust anyone, you did anything you could to blend in.

It can be argued that the boys in the military were just fighting for their country, like their elected (!) leader told them to, so saying everyone in a Nazi uniform was a mass murderer is perhaps not quite accurate, because – putting things into perspective – that would make any soldier in any army a mass murderer. What I mean is, you can’t say every single German in the 1930s and 1940s were evil, and this film shows that side; a side that we don’t often see or hear about.

“Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them? Hans … are we the baddies?”

The “good” Nazis in this film being a bunch of big names going about their plotting looking dapper in uniforms. If you like blokes in uniform, you’re in for a treat. The blokes in question are led by Tom Cruise, but we also get to see Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard, Bill Nighy (or was he an evil Nazi?), Tom Hollander (sneaky and definitely at least semi-evil, but not in the swoonworthy Cutler Beckett way) and Kevin McNally. So, basically a bunch of Brits, an American and a Dutchwoman, all playing Axis soldiers as opposed to Allied soldiers, like you’d expect. I thought they all played their parts very well.

Carice van Houten I had previously seen in Zwartboek (“Black Book”, also a WW2 movie – where she plays a Jewish woman in the Dutch resistance, who gets involved with another one of those “good” Nazis. Just as well he’s a decent bloke, because otherwise it would really screw with my head, which already screams about cognitive dissonance.

I never thought I’d put the words “gorgeous” and “Nazi” together in a sentence ever, but Sebastian Koch + uniform = phwoar! So the fact that he’s a decent bloke who doesn’t think ethnic cleansing is a good idea takes away a good chunk of that cognitive dissonance), and here she’s one-eyed Cruise’s missus. I think he lost his eye in WW1 (or was it earlier in WW2?), so it’s not a case of trying to be a pirate to impress Pirates of the Caribbean veterans Tom Hollander and Kevin McNally.

Behold my pirate envy! Yarr!

As a film, I thought it was very enjoyable. It was thought-provoking, well-acted, engaging, and while a bit slow in parts, still generally well-paced as well. Not a bad movie at all. Perhaps not as emotional as Defiance, and definitely not as gory (or funny) as Inglorious Basterds, but not a bad film by any means.

They say the best-laid plans of mice and men often go wrong, and they’re ever so close to pulling it off, and then it goes pear-shaped. How would the world look today if Operation Valkyrie had actually worked? I bet there’s another one of those clips from Der Untergang (the “Hitler meme”) about that somewhere …

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