Studio Name: 20th Century Fox/MGM
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Transfer/Disc Information: Widescreen 1.85:1 Dual Layer; Region 1/U.S. Release
Video Codec: N/A
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring Cast: Tom Cruise, Tom Wilkinson, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp
This was a pretty good film, and I have been waiting for it since it hit theaters -- unfortunately, I didn't catch it theatrically. You wouldn't think a screenplay conceived about the plot to kill Adolf Hitler by members of his rogue government would be realized -- even marginally -- by the director who did Superman Returns and brought to life by lead actor Tom Cruise. But you know something? It worked. Singer assembled a top-notch cast including the great Terence Stamp (Superman II, The Haunted Mansion), standup comic Eddie Izzard and the electrifying but underrated Tom Wilkinson (The Patriot, Batman Begins, Michael Clayton), each of them playing different characters dug deep into the Hitler regime, based on actual events.
Personally having past generations of family lost in the Nazi concentration camps of World War II, the intricate history and subsequent destruction of the world's most powerful dictatorship has always fascinated me; I just caught the real story behind the idea for Singer's film the other night on cable, and indeed, Cruise played the "Colonel Stauffenberg" role pretty spot on -- the filmmakers even got the look right (a seemingly near-impossible feat as of late for some odd reason) with his eye patch and demeanor fitting perfectly. As history has it, Hitler committed suicide before the Allies and America could get to him, or before he could witness the re-taking of his nation, which was eventually defeated on all fronts; it's been a subject of debate exactly how much of this actually happened and in which fashion, with many German descendants claiming Hitler never actually killed himself and he resisted the Allied invasion until the very end, while other Holocaust support organizations (many of which I have spoken with) claim he definitely did take his own life as being a "coward." In any event, Bryan Singer's Valkyrie portrays the last of some 15 attempts on Hitler's life by his own regime members, none of which, apparently, succeeded.
The film is two hours long, but it moves at a very crisp clip, thanks to Singer's action-infested direction in this one, and it never gets too thick in its history-telling or backstories; instead, we're dropped right in the middle of what's going on in Germany, circa 1944, and the tension and pace Singer sets continues on through every frame. Cruise, as aforementioned, plays German Colonel Stauffenberg, starting off the film already showing signs of discontentment with Hitler and his ways of leading Germany. Sure, Cruise plays his role here as he always does, with that heavy-handed hammyness and typical dialogue delivery that accompanies all his performances, but he is actually believable as Stauffenberg. When his outpost is attacked and he is left horribly injured with a missing left eye, a missing right hand and fingers missing from the left, he comes out of the military hospital dead set on stopping Hitler any way he can.
A conspiracy within the ranks of the Berlin government and Hitler's own Nazi squads develops, with Cruise appointed the new man to lead the assassination attempt after many others had failed. Some of the in-between areas here get a bit hazy, as Singer seems to be leaving much history out in explaining exactly how Stauffenberg got "appointed" to carry this order out and such, but the film is still exciting as it is. Tom Wilkinson, always fun to watch onscreen, plays a Nazi General who remains loyal to Hitler even as a plot to kill him unravels around him, while Terence Stamp plays another German insider deeply supporting the plan for assassination. There are even shots of Hitler as a character in this film, the mustache, hair and demeanor seemingly spot-on as well, and Singer went the extra mile to actually make him a character -- not just a name that everyone in the film is trying to kill.
As the film goes on, some of the elements get a bit hazy and pondering, and I lost focus on exactly what was going on after awhile; the plan for assassination includes getting an explosive-loaded briefcase into Hitler's meeting chamber, and much of the film concentrates on the energy and concentration needed to carry this out. Cruise plays Stauffenberg's slightly paranoid, yet dedicated character to a tee here, and it's one of his better performances in some time.
This was an intriguing, enveloping and entertaining two hours. The verdict on whether it's a buy is still out -- but it's a wise choice for a rental.
Okay. So I know this wasn't a Blu-ray review friends, but bear with me here...the standard DVD I rented was upscaled to 1080p on my Panasonic 'BD10A player -- which is notorious for poor upconversion -- and believe it or not, this 1.85:1 transfer from Fox looked great for standard def. I'm not kidding.
Darker portions showed some compression artifacting, as all DVDs do, and I noticed a scene or two with macroblocking problems, but overall, this disc looked pretty fabulous for standard definition, leading me to believe the BD is pretty awesome looking. There was very little video noise in the background, and outdoor sequences indeed looked very near-HD like, with clean, real fleshtones, bright colors and an overall punchy, clean look. Very nice job by Fox on this DVD.
Just as impressive as the video on this DVD was the English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix -- curious that Fox didn't include a DTS track, as that has been the direction they were going in on their standard DVD releases (even Quantum of Solace included one), but no matter, this track, during action sequences, is a real house-shaker. LFE comes in spades, and the fly-bys of World War II fighter jets roar in and out of the entire soundstage. The track did have a problem with dialogue -- sometimes this level got so low, I couldn't make out the whispering between characters, which happened a lot. When I cranked up the master volume to compensate, gunshots and explosions were way too loud. My player's "Dialogue Enhancer" didn't help either, so I switched it back off.
But this Dolby track really kicked ass for a standard DVD -- it encompassed the quiet areas where thunderous audio wasn't called for alongside the booming aggressiveness of the planes and guns of this era. The Hitler bombing sequence in which him and his men are thrown out of the exploding building in varying directions is absolutely thundering if you have your volume up too high, and while not much surround activity accompanies this scene surprisingly, the wallop that the blast delivers is attention-grabbing. There's a moment also when pistols are being fired at Cruise and his men at the end, and the shots come off sounding empty and hollow -- but it was an exact authenticity of how those pistols sounded at that time, and that was an impressive effort by the sound design team.
Not a drop-dead-excellent motion picture, but a very well-made one by Bryan Singer -- if you're a history buff, this one will sure please, even though some suspension of disbelief should be on hand, as well as some breathing room given to Singer and crew for historical authenticity through and through. From what I have read, seen and understand, Singer got most of this right -- from the costumes, years and dates flashed at the bottom of each scene and demeanors portrayed by the actors, so that's in the plus column.
A surprisingly good action/historical thriller based on a true story about the attempt to put down one of the world's most evil tyrants ever recorded by the annals of history.
It's rated PG-13, but there's a lot of violence in this one, even though you can tell Singer tried his best to curb this...attempting to show as little as possible of Cruise's character's bombing injuries that were pretty horrific, etc. Excellent performance turn-ins from Cruise, Wilkinson and Stamp make this an easy recommendation, either on Blu or standard.
Please fire away with any questions or comments, and thank you, as always, for taking the time to read! :hithere::busy:[/font]