Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Saw Tom Cruise's "Valkyrie" Tonight

Julianne and I went out for dinner and a movie tonight. When we got to the theater (we didn't look before going) there was only one English movie on display: Valkyrie

The movie as a whole is a masterpiece. I am not exaggerating. The soundtrack alone should be billed as one of the leading stars in the movie. The drums and staccato sounds create an unceasing pulsating emotional tension that supports the powerful performances and story of the movie.

The ensemble cast was a huge surprise. Tom delivers a spectacular performance--but it would have been completely unappreciated without the large number of amazing supporting actors.

The cinematography uses close-ups in an interesting way that emphasizes human features of the perspective from which we, as the viewers, are engaged in the story. It creates a realism of 'being there' right behind the human being telling the story . . . it was awesome.

I am a little disappointed with the female roles in the movie, and the amount of screen time and script space they are given. They are there as secretaries, wives, and background . . . not exactly the roles that I'm sure they had in real life.

WARNING -- SPOILER COMMENT HERE -- Please stop reading if you haven't seen the movie.

At the end of the film there is an incredibly human moment with the adjutant (Lieutenant Werner von Haeften) to Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise). They are about to be executed. General Friedrich Olbricht goes first, with Stauffenberg encouraging him to "look them in the eyes" and make them remember us.

Then it's Stauffenberg's turn. He walks into the street to stand in front of the firing squad alone . . . and then his adjutant suddenly walks over to stand in front of him with his back to the firing squad in a symbolic gesture of defiance to Hitler and the SS, and defense of the man he follows and is friends with--it's a movie moment that I would put on par with scenes from Band of Brothers, Saints and Soldiers, and Saving Private Ryan.

Finally, the thing that makes this movie a masterpiece is the story itself--without a story there is nothing but special effects and the plastic surgery-based superficiality of Hollywood's regular gruel for consumption. Historians and WW II experts will probably poke holes in some of the revisionist details in the movie, but I think that as a piece of historical drama writing that the script is fantastic.

Wikipedia has this picture of Tom Cruise and the real life Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg . . . the similarities are uncanny, literally. It's almost like this is a role that Tom was 'meant' to do . . . I also have to wonder what role Scientology played in Tom choosing to act in this movie given the importance of past lives in his religion.

The ensemble cast, as I said before, is a huge key to this movie's success. They were so amazing that I'm putting the list of them from wikipedia here (see below).

Julianne and I walked out of the theater actually feeling like we had just witnessed a great story and performances of the highest level--how often can one say that?

p.s. Wow, I haven't seen Branagh in a while--his role contributes a great deal to the development of the momentum and tension in the story. I hope he does more work in the near future.

Other cast members:

1 comment:

Mark Eaton said...

I'm not a big Tom Cruise fan, especially after he danced that jig on Oprah's sofa. I must admit, however, that comparison photograph you posted of him is powerful...in my opinion, his best.

On your recommendation I shall watch the movie.