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Valkyrie (2008) Print E-mail
Friday, 22 May 2009
Image"Valkyrie" is blockbuster that is loosely, and I mean loosely, based on a true story.  It didn't really have potential to begin with.  Fictionalizing a true story never really works when brought to the big screen.  Generally, the story is changed to meet the needs of a blockbuster and the acting is empty because they have no idea what were the original behaviors of the real life persons.  Both of these are the case with "Valkyrie."

"Valkyrie" is the story of the last known attempt on Hitler's life.  During WWII, a group of German civilians and soldiers formed the German Resistance, those that were opposed to the dictatorship of Hitler.  Apparently there were 15 known attempts to assassinate Hitler by the Germans.

One of the most notable attempts was carried out by Colonel Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise).  Unfortunately, it is an elaborate plot that goes absolutely nowhere.  The Germans would have had a better chance of simply shooting Hitler during a speech.  If the German Resistance were really dedicated they probably would have sacrificed one of their own, in order to make sure that the mission was carried out properly.  Still, the plot is interesting to a fault.

Sadly, the plot is long winded, suffering from horrible dialogue sequences that require re-watching several times over in order to grasp what they are saying.  It takes several times of watching because the performances are so dull that you just want to fall asleep.

It is inspiring to know that there were German people that tried to dethrone Hitler, I just find it hard to believe that no one succeeded in more than 15 attempts.

In "Valkyrie," Colonel Stauffenberg, severely injured in Africa, returns to Munich distraught by the loyalty commanded by Hitler.  Stauffenberg is recruited by a group of resistors.  He finds the resistant's plans to assassinate Hitler to be incomplete.  He suggests that Hitler needs to be assassinated and all his followers need to be arrested and de-seated from a position of power.

Stauffenberg suggests that the resistance uses Operation Valkyrie.  This operation was set in place by Hitler in order to protect Berlin in the case of an uprising.  Valkyrie comprises of a reserve army that outnumbers all the SS and Gestapo police.  When appointed as the Chief of Staff of the reserve army, Stauffenberg has the opportunity get in the same room as Hitler.  First, Stauffenberg must amend the Valkyrie operation and have it signed by Hitler.  He succeeds.

After Stauffenberg is to plant a bomb in a military briefing involving Hitler, and verifying that he is indeed killed, the reserve army would be deployed, arresting SS officers.  Unfortunately, Hitler is not killed in the blast and countermands the orders sent by the German Resistance.  Their plan is foiled and over the course of six month everyone involved is executed. As an outsider looking in, Hollywood is able to highlight all the obvious signs that the assassination plot is going to fail.  However, I must imagine that in real life if those signs were clear as day then the German Resistance would have been smart enough to make changes to their plans.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.

In the end, the only thing that could save this film would be the heart and soul of the actors.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen here.  I never believed for one moment that Cruise or any of the others were part of the German Resistance.  It just seemed to be another paycheck for them all.  However, the filmmakers and crew all get credit for their attempts.

"Valkyrie" comes to Blu-ray with an MPEG-4 AVC transfer and a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  As seems to be the case lately, the good movies have poor transfer and the bad movies have terrific transfers.  "Valkyrie" has a remarkably clean transfer.  There is a very fine layer of film grain present that won't be noticeable unless you have a larger than 65-inch HDTV.  Even when you TV gets that large you will still hardly notice the grain.  There are no blemishes or dust and dirt.  The contrast gets a little dicey during low light sequences.  Black levels and shadow delineation are both stable and above average.  The colors all have a push toward yellow and gray, purposefully done for the film style.  Saturation is great and fleshtones appear accurate despite the film's yellow push.  Details are clear, although not as spectacular I would have expected for such a new film.  Close-ups are truly inspiring, but the background details suffer.  This is still a good transfer, especially after watching some of the other recent releases.

The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.  The quality is outstanding for the most part, however there is one major issue.  Seeing as how the dialogue is extremely important to the concept of the film, it is disturbing that is given such little attention to detail.  You will find yourself reaching for the remote control to raise the volume in several of the softer sequences.  This is quite a big distraction.  However, on the plus side, the LFE channel is exquisite.  The basement-bombing sequence is awe-inspiring.  You will truly feel the thundering roar as bomb blasts shake the entire house.  The music of Wagner in the same sequence is a great contrast to the bombs falling, but is a bit of a cliché.  The dynamic range is expansive, but to the point where the dialogue dips below a comfortable level.

The supplements for this Blu-ray release are far better than the entire movie.  There is so much information and intriguing history to be found in the bonus materials section that you may as well skip the movie.  First there are two audio commentaries.  The first is with director Bryan Singer, actor Tom Cruise, and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie.  The second track is with co-writer Christopher McQuarrie (again) and co-writer Nathan Alexander.  The first track is the better of the two. I always enjoy Bryan Singer audio commentaries.  Tom Cruise I could do without.  He doesn't offer anything insightful.  It is nice to a writer's perspective on the film, despite the botch job that Hollywood did on the film.

Next, there is "The Valkyrie Legacy" Documentary.  This is a nearly two-hour documentary that goes in-depth into the Valkyrie story and the history of the German Resistance and Hitler.  There are five production featurettes that examine a lot of the filmmaking locations and contain interviews with cast and crew.  These featruettes are; "The Journey to Valkyrie," "The Road to Resistance," "The African Front Sequence," "Toaking to the Air" and "Recreating Berlin."

"Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer Recorded live at New York's 92nd Street Y" is a live interview with the duo.  Lastly, the second disc in the package is a Digital Copy of the film.

"Valkyrie" suffers from Hollywood-ization but has an interesting premise.  Unfortunately the acting is a bit below average.  The video quality is impressive, and the audio quality is terrific during action sequences but unfortunately suffers during dialogue sequences.  I recommend the special features of this disc over anything else.

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