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VALKYRIE (2008) - Tom Cruise vs Hitler

By RRA - Posted on 25 January 2009

[b][u]VALKYRIE (2008) - ***1/2 out of 5[/u][/b]

Man, this movie got [i]way[/i] too much crap back at Christmas. Does Hollywood really now despise Tom Cruise that much? If so, where the hell were they when we were getting Cruise garbage like TOP GUN and the terrible M:I 2? I hate to break this news to you all, but I was beating him up years before the rest of you. If anybody else but Tom Cruise had been casted for VALKYRIE, like say Johnny Depp for example, I guarantee that at least half of the negative reviews would have reversed course.

Hell on the way to see this in theatres, I heard some smart-alleck remark that: [i][b]“If it’s between Nazis and Tom Cruise, I’m rooting for the Nazis!”[/i][/b]

Yeah Cruise acted daffy and insane years ago with the couch-jumping and scientology, but my [b][i]real[/i][/b] problem with him has usually been that out in public he always seem to came off as a total [b]jerk.[/b] Worse, as an actor he had the nasty tendency of coasting off his equally annoying stupid shmuck youthful hotshot TOP GUN persona, even decades later into his [i]40s[/i] (like in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III.)

That said, I must admit that when Cruise takes a project seriously and actually [i]bothers[/i] to act, he can be great. He got rightly Oscar nominated for Oliver Stone's BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY to Paul Thomas Anderson's MAGNOLIA, and I thought he should have been honored as well for his cool villainy in Michael Mann's COLLATERAL. Hell, he was even fun and arguably stole the show in the recent TROPIC THUNDER.

But even then, Cruise somehow finds a way to make you [i]still[/i] despise him inspite of whatever genuine cinema success he produces. Take that media report of how he held a private screening of VALKYRIE at his house, and all critics were welcomed as long as [b][i]they afterwards either pen positive reviews, or stay silent.[/i][/b] To be fair this practice aint anything new, for even Steven Spielberg did something similar for his A.I., but such antics doesn't help Cruise's damaged reputation. Maybe after CouchGate, many in Hollywood finally found their opportunity for revenge against former Toast of Town Cruise without serious reprisals.

So basically by sheer guilt by star association, along with reported production troubles (like a German lab ruining the filmed-climax, which forced a reshoot), VALKYRIE got bad buzz as an expensive flop before [i]anyone had even seen it.[/i] A pity because it's actually a pretty good movie, a satisfying thriller that is suspenseful in spite of the fact that we all already know the ending: The July 20 plot by Germans to explode Adolf Hitler and overthrow the Nazi government fails, and everyone involved within that conspiracy is promptly executed.

Yeah, sorry about spoiling the movie.

Now alot of critics have whined about how VALKYRIE implodes because there was no [i]"psychological exploration"[/i] to explain the characters' motivations. Director Bryan Singer and writer/producer Christopher McQuarrie I truely believe strived to produce a streamlined action-thriller drama in the vein of those World War 2 novels that we used to get from Jack Higgins and Alistair MacLean.

You might know what I'm talking about, those books about a squad of men undertaking an insane mission and fighting against impossible odds. They may be trying to bomb Nazi cannons (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE) or storm a German fortress up in the Alps (WHERE EAGLES DARE) or try to assassinate Winston Churchill in Ireland (THE EAGLE HAS LANDED) or whatever. Notice how VALKYRIE's poster and marketing is heavily influenced by THE DIRTY DOZEN. The difference between them and Singer's VALKYRIE is that for one his movie is slightly less fantastical, and second the July 20 plot of 1944 wasn't fiction and [i][b]actually happened....[/i][/b] which was sorta the case for THE GREAT ESCAPE as well.

[b]But hell man [i]it's Hitler!!![/i][/b] You don't exactly have to try hard to convince me to kill him. Plus last I checked, I think most of us by now are sorta aware that Nazi Germany didn't exactly tolerate dissidents. Remember that early scene RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK when the government agents told Indiana Jones about the Nazis trying to steal the Ark of the Covenant? Why as a kid we all had the same reaction: [i][b]"Han Solo, you can't let those evil men get their hands on the Ark!"[/i][/b]

People, there is a reason why the Nazis have always been a favorite villainy of Hollywood: [i]Everyone[/i] hates them, even Germans today do too.

I must admit, Roger Donaldson's THIRTEEN DAYS had similar dramatic limitations like VALKYRIE did, and it is a superior picture because DAYS allowed us to understand the pressures and mentality that can beset any American President during an international crisis. Alot of those conspirators wanted Hitler dead not just out of morale outrage or that the Fuhrer was destroying the proud heritage of the German military, but also by 1944 they were losing the war. Even if that coup de tat had succeeded, those plotters' hope for an Armistice reminiscent of 1918 from the Anglo-Americans (so Germany could concentrate fully on the Soviet invasion) was a pipe dream considering that the Allies had agreed to end the war only by unconditional surrender.

Anyway, could Singer and crew have folded such complexities into VALKYRIE? Sure, but for the movie that I think the Gay Jewish Singer wanted, VALKYRIE works very fine for what it is. I don't exactly know how I would have improved that narrative as planned. Maybe you detractors can write up some fan fiction and prove me wrong. I also liked Singer's touch in shooting a hallway shootout between Cruise and Nazis, for it's nice for once that we get an awkward and sloppy firefight without the glitz or smoothness that we usually get from Hollywood. Singer redeems himself for SUPERMAN RETURNS.

As for the acting, Cruise obviously cared about VALKYRIE because he didn't bore me at all, unlike say M:I 3. His biggest problem is that his mostly British supporting cast including the likes of Kenneth Branaugh, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, and Bernard Hill all don't have to [i]try[/i] to act, unlike Cruise. In other words, Maverick is surrounded by King Henry V, Carmine Falcone, General Zod, Davy Jones, that tranvestite comic, and King Rohan. Maverick gets his Goose cooked.

But I felt he did a fine job, the calm-in-control leader performance expected of heroes in most action movies. I did dig that one great scene of his when he's having to struggle with only one hand, and three functioning fingers, to arm his suitcase bomb in under a minute. Also, I bought that moment when with his charm and uniform, he convinces Hitler to sign altered operation plans (designed to defeat Hitler) without reading them.

That or Hitler is a big DAYS OF THUNDER fan, I don't know. Interestingly, U.S. Army students at West Point academy nominated Cruise in VALKYRIE for this year's Cadet's Choice award, which celebrates [b][i]"a movie character that best exemplifies West Point leadership,"[/b][/i] along with Batman, James Bond, Indiana Jones, and Harvey Milk.

Alot of people don't care for the lack of German accents in VALKYRIE, but you know what? Whither those guys use a foreign tongue or not, [b]they all are still speaking English[/b], so it really doesn't matter at all.. Accent or not, I rather prefer whatever works best for an actor. Take ENEMY AT THE GATES where you had Ed Harris, one of America's great actors, giving essentially a solid performance. Yet he's torpedoed by his horrendous German accent. Then consider Burt Lancaster in THE TRAIN, who's simply friggin badass despite the fact that as a supposed Frenchman, he sounded like a New Yorker.

Some years back, alot of German magazines polled readers asking the best movies of all time, and SCHINDLER'S LIST ranked high on all of them. Now you may ask, why would they cherish a film which basically confronted without any excuses that great national shame-stain that was the Holocaust? If you want my theory, it's probably mostly because the hero Oskar Schindler himself was German.

Not surprisingly, Germany doesn't exactly have many historical figures from that epoch for which to be proud of. These supposed Good Germans of the July 20 plot knew that if they failed, that they would get shot or hanged by fishwire on meathooks or their relatives possibly threatened, but also that they would probably be seen by their countrymen as [b][i]traitors[/i][/b] and bring shame to their families. Much less that their big post-coup Armistice goal was pretty unrealistic. Maybe they accepted that reality, said [i][b]screw it[/b][/i] and decided to go for it anyway,

And that is why they're heroes in Germany today.

BTW, sorry about that HTML malfunction above. My fault.

Heh. They don't use BBCode here, unfortunately. Maybe the powers that be could fix that.

I want to see Valkyrie. I must not have read any of the negative reviews you refer to; the reviews that I read in my local paper have been mostly positive. Which, since unlike many people I know I actually listen to the reviewers (even when I don't totally agree), makes me even more willing to see the film.

Oh, and I still think that Top Gun was a great movie. :P

"For those who plan with audacity and execute with vigor,
progress is the magnificent by product." 

I almost went to see VALKERIE on Xmas day.    It was one of two that friends had suggested, the other being the remake of 1951's The Day The Earth Stood Still.

We flipped a coin and went to see the latter.   Well, I'd give it a 5.5 or 6 out of 10------really a disappointment and not nearly as suspenseful or eerie as the original.

Even Gort (the robot) was not seen as much as most people would have wanted.     You properly would have expected that, with today's computer-generated effects the film would be an improvement over the original from a visual perspective.

Not so.

Although the original was in b/w, the space ship was a sleek-looking flying saucer and the special effects were decent.    In the remake it was just an amorphous glowing ball of gas----not very impressive at all.

Keanu Reeves played a stone-faced Klaatu, without much real acting involved.    In fact, we thought he made a better robot than the robot did.   

The robot stunk too.   In the original, Gort was mechanical and metalized with a vizor that, when it opened, foreshadowed use of his powerful laser.    But in the remake, he looked more like a red-cyclops-eye version of Spiderman made out of spandex or something.


The plot dragged with too much mawkish sentimentality about a widowed scientist and her kid, while the main plot of the original was altered from a warning to an outright extermination of humans by aliens.    Even sillier, the weapon they use is a flying bunch of tiny metal insect-like critters instead of high-tech WMDs.

Even the ending is a dud.   Klaatu simply walks away.   No moralizing speeches before a gathering of world leaders or anything dramatic as in the original film.

Verdict:   Kind of a snoozer.

Maybe consider renting the DVD later, but don't waste your money on a theater ticket.

Heh -- I just bought the Day the Earth Stood Still Special Edition on DVD. While it had a trailer for the current abomination (which I have zero plans on seeing) it had lots of cool background on the original movie.

That along with the Boondock Saints Special Edition. 

"For those who plan with audacity and execute with vigor,
progress is the magnificent by product." 

Sorry I do not see anything with the Cruise in it...cannot stand him...something about him is not real.

 If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible... ...who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

I don't like him, either.  And I don't like for any of my money going to support Scientology, so I try not to see any of his or John Travolta's movies.  (I know that there are a lot of Scientologists in the film business, but these are just two really big names.)

Nightwinger - I would even go less and trash that EARTH remake as mediocre and pretty pointless. In fact, here's my older review:

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (2008) - **1/2 out of 5

""The Day the Earth Stood Still" need not have taken its title so seriously that the plot stands still along with it."- Roger Ebert

Director Robert Wise's original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL from 1951 was a rare gem for that time in that it actually had the audacity to tell a serious science fiction story, and likewise maturely accept the genre instead of mocking it. Wise's EARTH also had everything else you might ask for in a film, with terrific acting chemistry, smart scriptwriting with memorable scenes, a good solid story, and thought-provoking, then-topical political preaching against the pre-Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty world with the uncontrolled and wreckless proliferation of atomic bombs.

Either way, the 2008 remake keeps the basic premise but uses a whole new political angle which would compel a prophet of doom from the stars named Klaatu to come visit us. The advanced aliens are now prepping for an armed intervention to save the planet with its dying ecology, and if necessary, exterminate the humans that are trashing the place. Yet I think that whole framing is the fatal flaw of this entire endeavor. Now look, I care about the rain forest and polar bears and all that stuff, I really do. But the problem is the same that afflicts every other Hollywood picture that tries to preach a pro-environmental sermon, which is that I have a hard time taking that crisis to heart like I would with a nuclear holocaust. I think environmentalists mean well, but they usuallyfight their noble cause by personalizing plants and animals, but guess what?

They aren't people. I truely think that they should try instead to highlight Earth's biology will evolve and adapt to whatever we do to our world, for in fact about 99% of all lifeforms that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct. The point is they will survive, but we won't. That's more effective ideological argumentation, and notice that  the movement has in recent years used this sharp point regarding Global Warming or whatever. Good for them.

Not though for this EARTH "revisioning," a Hollywood term I despise for the original is arguably still more universally relevant, what with war-front nations like North Korea, Pakistan, Israel, and India having gained nuclear weapons in recent decades either by ignoring or outright violate the nature of the 1968 NNPT Treaty. The West got Libya some years ago to disarm itself, so there's hope for our future on that front. Plus let's be honest: Why logically would aliens, even if they are highly advanced in technology and civilization, launch an armed intervention for an ecology? Hell the West at least wouldn't for sure.

To use a metaphor, this EARTH alreadys has its legs broken, and then ordered to run a marathon. Then it gets blindfolded with barbwire, and stumbles about for it's produced like a Roland Emmerich-esque big budget disaster movie. You know what I'm talking about: so-called scientists acting like morons, a thin story merely an excuse for tons and tons of CGI to detone the threat of the danger, the military (led by Kathy Bates doing her best Hillary Clinton impersonation) being evil warmongers who want to blow up everything (that would be Michael Bay) and all the usual stock footage used to show global panic and civil unrest over this new global peril. Yet amazingly enough, Emmerich wasn't the director.

The imposter is Scott Derrickson, who's previous movie was THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE which I didn't see because of my allergies to contemporary American horror cinema. But with the amount of intelligence and artistic grace (or lack thereof) displayed here, maybe I'm not missing out on much. Take that sequence borrowed from Wise's EARTH where the visitor is peacefully greeting and he gets shot out of a simple misunderstanding. Thing is, in the original you can understand that knee-jerk mistake, for Michael Rennie looks like he's reaching into his belt for a weapon (like unfortunately way too many civilians gunned down by cops because they only were getting cellphones from their jackets.) In the remake, it occurs when the visitor is only reaching out to Jennifer Connelly for a handshake.

Yes, a friggin handshake!

He did have a few nice clever ideas, like how the alien spaceship isn't the traditional mechanical vessel, but a primordial glob of goo. The alien astronaut travels by being mixed within this giant orb, and with a collected strain of human DNA, he mutates and is "reborn" as one of us. But man, couldn't they belong in a good film? What's strange is how ole Gort retains his iconic industrial design, but it just contrasts strongly with the spaceship. Why couldn't those aliens simply have a giant blob as the ultimate weapon? I'm sure it could be just as effective, but yeah then it wouldn't be a remake, now would it?

Now I know Keanu Reeves is a punchline with many, but here and there I've defended. Yes he's famous for his limited emotional acting range, yet somehow he's gotten involved in quality productions worked to his advantage. From a dimwit in the BILL & TED series to being a surfer-cop (POINT BREAK) and a solid credible foil to insane baddie Dennis Hopper in SPEED. Don't forget THE MATRIX where ironically or intentionally that human savior acted more Vulcan and distant than his angry and emotional digital-nemesis Hugo Weaving. Anyway his legendary blank stare is actually perfect for Derrickson's EARTH, an alien basically wearing a humanoid suit, and initially awkward in operating basic functions like drinking water.

But what I don't like is how his character is scripted. Rennie's Klaatu may come from an alien civilization more advanced technologically and culturally, but he's still fascinated by these primitive and barbaric humans. Take that scene when he's amazed by the humble-but-majestic words of Abraham Lincoln, and he beat Barack Obama by what, more than 50 years? Plus, Rennie had some good touching moments with that orphaned boy, like in Arlington. Seriously, they'll always deny it, but I'm dead certain that BBC was inspired by this smart friendly-but-forceful alien explorer for their DOCTOR WHO.

Anyway, Keanu's Klaatu though hears the classical music of Bach, and flatly says that it's beautiful. Dude, try be a fan of The Clash before I'm impressed. Otherwise, he doesn't seem curious about his hostile foreign environment and is convinced that Earth must be wiped clean as a plate. But guess what? He supposedly he changes his mind because Connelly and adopted son Jayden Smith finally bond together, that humanity can change for the better or whatever the hell.

Supposedly. Obviously we the audience are supposed to take to heart this transformation for both them and Keanu, but the vibe I got from the crowd at the screening was that they never cared, and why should they? That whole storyline's climax just feels so underwhelming, and since Derrickson pinned on this drama for his EARTH, it's a crippled project with a messy message that does the best that it can to crawl its way to the finish line. Plus Will Smith's boy, his fault or the screenplay, just comes off as whiney and annoying.

I know it sounds like I hate EARTH, and I do but not because it's a bad movie. It's just so uninspired, empty, and even warrants the accusation of being utterly pointless. It's your roommate who has a job across the street from your joint, but he's too lazy to go to work and gets fired. That feeling of fustration is what I got with this EARTH. I did like John Cleese playing the intellectual uses good logic to demolish Keanu's entire argument, which we don't get much of at the movies. Too bad he's only a glorified cameo. I even dug the James Hong appearance, though I guess it finally makes sense that David Lo Pan from BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA was an alien all along.

But memo to Hollywood, please never hire Connelly to play a scientist again. She seems like a nice woman and all, even a good actress at times, but the last two times that she's worn a thinking cap were in both EARTH and Ang Lee's HULK. I guess three times is the charm, but it's not worth finding out if that's true, even if it was for the PUNISHER franchise.

Klaatu Mirada Nictoe

Certain lines from classic films have resonated over the years.   But this EARTH remake had none.

Aside from the one-liner titled above (no such dialog in the remake), I was waiting for the scene with the pseudo-Einsteinian professor, played by Cleese in the remake and by Sam Jaffe in the original.

In the 1951 film they are discussing some arcane math/physics formula written on a blackboard.    Klaatu has made "corrections" to the professor's theorum.

Professor:   "But it's not perfect....there is a remainder left over."

Klaatu (with Rennie's Mona Lisa smile):  "I find it works well enough to get me from one planet to another."

Man, what a friggin' beautiful comeback line.

Also, I wondered where "the Earth stood still" in the remake.    Originally, all electricity througout the world was cut-off for one hour to demonstrate the serious capabilities of alien super-science to political leaders.   Almost miraculously, electric power was continued in hospitals or areas of life-support function.

"Just a little demonstration," the Professor says, "we wouldn't want to hurt anybody."

 No such clever plot devices were in the current version that I could discern.

Music is important part of movie impact too.   The original Earth had an eerie soundtrack that imbued a suspenseful aura of the weird and unknown to the film.    The remake has zilch going for it.

I guess we are in agreement that the Earth.2 is an insult to the original and diaphanous, vapidly written piece of crap.

Too bad really.   If it had stayed true to the original, it could have been so much more.



Central TX Mom - Well, how about other lesser-known Scientologists like, courtesy of


Leah Remini (KING OF QUEENS)

Beck (Singer)

Greta Van Sustern (Fox News host)

Danny Masterson (THAT 70'S SHOW)

Nany Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson)

Sonny Bono (Hit Tree)

Jerry Seinfeld (No really!)

Interestingly, mass murderer Charles Manson apparently took 150 something hours of Scientology courses/lectures, and thought it was too crazy for him.

Then again, as a friend over in southern California described Scientology to me: "It's Evangelicalism for Hollywood."

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