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The Valkyrie conspirators, left to right: Kevin McNally, Christian

Berkel, Bill Nighy, Tom Cruise, Terence Stamp, David Schofield

and Kenneth Brannagh.

 

 

Die Welt, Germany

Tom Cruise's Valkyrie: 'Intimidated By History'

 

"If he's shooting for an Oscar with Valkyrie, Cruise is going to miss the target. The film is designed to mean something entirely different to Americans than it does to us. For Germany, July 20th 1944 is one of the moral foundations of a new, democratic Germany. For the rest of the world the film is simply a thriller. The entire Valkyrie project seems a little intimidated by history, by its exact reconstructions and by German sensitivities."

 

By Hanns-Georg Rodek

 

Tranklated By Ulf Behncke

 

December 16, 2008

 

Germany - Die Welt - Original Article (German)

Long ago labeled a leader of a dangerous cult by German authorities, American actor Tom Cruise failed to impress Die Welt with his portrayal of Claus Graf Stauffenberg in the film, Valkyrie. However Sueddeutsche Zeitung's reviewer, Tobias Kniebe, praised the movie as a 'near triumph.' The film shines a light on Stauffenberg's failed attempt to murder Adolph Hitler.

 

DOCUMENTARY FOOTAGE: From the documentary Operation Valkyrie, excerpts about the attempt to assassinate Hitler led by Claus Graf Stauffenberg. RealVideo

It was a long, hard struggle. On Monday evening, the film Valkyrie had its New York premiere. Tom Cruise in the role of Hitler assassin Stauffenberg is unlike anything his career might have suggested. The elements of a thriller are all in place as expected, but it falls short of being the sought-after masterpiece.

 

At least they didn't mix up the eye-patch. In The 20th of July [Der 20 Juli ], the first film adaptation of the assassination attempt on Hitler's life, actor Wolfgang Preiss in the role of Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg wore the eye patch over the right eye. Tom Cruise wears it, correctly, over the left.

 

No, Valkyrie doesn't play into the hands of many opponents of the film, who began lining up before the first scene was shot, by simply portraying historical inaccuracies. But neither has it turned out to be the definitive portrayal of one of the key events in recent German history.

 

It would be quite enlightening to linger on historical accuracy for a moment. Right at the beginning there is Stauffenberg in Northern Africa amid the turmoil of battle, military equipment in motion, soldiers scurrying about - and right there, within earshot of anyone, there he is trying to win a General over to his plan to topple Hitler. This is of course absurd; amateurish behavior like this wouldn't have escaped the suspicion of the Gestapo for six weeks, let alone the six years the operation took to arrange. This is inaccurate. But does it matter?

 

 

Even more striking, is the scene in which Stauffenberg visits Hitler at the Berghof [Hitler's home in the Bavarian Alps ] a few weeks prior to the assassination attempt. In the film he [Stauffenberg] carries a briefcase that holds the centerpiece of his plan: the conspirators had revised a series of precautionary measures called Operation Valkyrie - which the Nazis had devised in the event of domestic unrest. The insurgents re-wrote the plan in order to seize power themselves.

 

Director Bryan Singer stages this visit as an ominous, rather haunting meeting during which Hitler ultimately signs the papers - and thus Singer suggests his own death sentence. In reality, Hitler never signed the modified plan for Valkyrie. He didn't have to. Imprecise, yes. But is this upsetting?

 

To best understand the formula of Operation Valkyrie, one must realize that the film is designed to mean something different to Americans than it does to us [Germans]. For Germany, July 20th1944 is one of the moral foundations of a new, democratic Germany. For the rest of the world the film is simply a thriller, albeit historical, and one whose outcome is as well known as the assassination attempt on De Gaulle's life, depicted in Fred Zinnemann's The Day of the Jackal .

 

Therefore, Bryan Singer introduces the elements of a thriller whenever plausible. Von Tresckow for example (played by Kenneth Branagh), is attempting to retrieve an unexploded bomb after an earlier assassination attempt. Singer places the package center stage and has two uniformed arms reach for it, one from the left and one from the right - and after what feels like an eternity, the hand that was about to open the package pulls back while the other hand grabs it.

 

Cruise, Claus Graf Stauffenberg and Stauffenberg's son,

Berthold Graf: Berthold Graf Stauffenberg is not pleased

about the Cruise production.

 

Such attempts to ramp up the tension where in fact there can be none - since after all, we all know the outcome - are employed throughout Operation Valkyrie. If one were to listen to the soundtrack on its own, ominous drumming and all, this would become even more obvious. John Ottman's music could easily be used as the soundtrack for a psychological thriller, with bleak houses and wet, glistening nighttime streets.

 

In addition to the effort to inject some real tension into the story, Operation Valkyrie is fighting another battle: how to explain the German resistance to an international audience that for the most part has never heard of the 20th of July, 1944. In this second battle, Singer is somewhat more successful. The moral conflict of swearing an oath of allegiance to "Der Fhrer," the reservations the older conspirators had about Stauffenberg, the inner workings of the Valkyrie plan - moviegoers in Dallas or Jakarta will be able to grasp all of this inside two hours.

 

For Operation Valkyrie, Hollywood actually threw a few dearly-loved habits overboard. It has a more sophisticated way of explaining history. It replaces the traditional foaming at the mouth Hitler with a dithering, almost absentminded character ("What invasion? Normandy? Oh, alright!"). And the family, usually supportive and a source of motivation for any Hollywood hero, is kept very much in the background. So much so that Nina von Stauffenberg (played by Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch's partner, who last played Stauffenberg on TV) end up with just a few scenes.

 

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is in almost every take. Tom Cruise, everyone in the industry agrees, has real on screen charisma and draws huge amounts of attention when he enters a room in Top Gun, Mission Impossible or Collateral. In Operation Valkyrie, he enters a lot of rooms with a lot of people, but it simply doesn't happen. His Stauffenberg is honorable and serious and firm - but Cruise's portrayal doesn't convey why this young count captivated so many people.

 

If one looks back at the list of roles he has played over the last 25 years, one thing stands out: Cruise is best when cast as an upstart; fighting for respect with aggression and energy, an American hero by all accounts. Stauffenberg however was a German hero of aristocratic bearing, which is a dimension Cruise completely lacks.

Posted by WORLDMEETS.US

 

The many Britons surrounding Cruise in the cast of Valkyrie, however, (ranging from Branagh as Tresckow and Bill Nighy as Olbricht to the wonderful Tim Wilkinson as Fromm) exude an air of military noblesse and grandeur - which Cruise does not.

 

One need only recall The Last Samurai to recognize when Cruise is at his best. There, Ken Watanabe is the distinguished yet doomed samurai and Cruise the ambitious, meritocratic mercenary - the latter perfectly cast in this contrasting role. If he's shooting for an Oscar with Valkyrie, Cruise is going to miss the target.

 

SEE ALSO ON THIS FROM GERMANY:

Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Germany: Valkyrie Not Your 'Typical Hollywood Tale'

Der Spiegel: German Critics Express Muted Praise for 'Valkyrie'

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Tom Cruise - A Man of Courage and Hero to the German People

 

One could credit Operation Valkyrie for being a film that doesn't fall into the traps of many Hollywood epics, namely the creation of a larger-than-life central character. But they could have made Stauffeberg just a little bit larger, simply because he is the central character in both the conspiracy and the movie. At the very least, they could have made him as big as the Edward Fox character in The Day of the Jackal - a character so strong that at some point the audience finds itself wishing for him to succeed, simply because of his cleverness and tenacity.

 

The entire Valkyrie project seems a little intimidated by history, by its exact reconstructions and by German sensitivities. There is one scene that reveals the fingerprints of an extraordinary director - and that is when, after the assassination attempt, news of Hitler's alleged death reaches the telegraph office in Berlin.

Posted by WORLDMEETS.US

 

BRITISH DOCUMENTARY ON PLOTS TO KILL HITLER

 

The first telegraph girl is dazed and lifts her hand, calling for her superior. And as he reads the telex in disbelief, more and more hands around the room are raised until finally, the entire room is standing still, perplexed. In this moment - significantly one of the few without Cruise - one begins to sense what Operation Valkyrie could have been, if only the desire of not wanting to offend anyone hadn't stood in the way of its cinematic ambitions.

 

The film opens in the United States in selected cinemas Christmas Day. In Germany, the film opens January 22nd. The European premiere is in Berlin two days before, on January 20.

 

CLICK HERE FOR GERMAN VERSION

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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US December 24, 6:27pm]

 

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