DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Valkyrie, Blu-ray (2008)

There were from 17 to 42 different attempts on Hitler’s life, beginning back in the 1920s, and the Valkyrie (Anglicization of the German Die Walküre) Plot was the final one.

Published on May 22, 2009

Valkyrie, Blu-ray (2008)

Valkyrie, Blu-ray (2008)

Starring Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson
Studio: United Artists/Fox/MGM  [Release date: May 19, 09]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 color 1080p HD – 2 discs, incl. Digital Copy for portable players
Audio: English DST-HD Master Audio 5.1, DD 5.1 DD 2.0; Spanish or French DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Korean
Extras: Commentary track by Tom Cruise, Director/Producer Brian Singer, Co-Writer/Producer Christopher McQuarrie; Commentary track by Christopher McQuarrie & Co-Writer Nathan Alexander; “Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise & Bryan Singer;” “The Valkyrie Legacy” documentary; “The Journey to Valkyrie” featurette; “The Road to Resistance” featurette; “The African Front Sequence” featurette; “Taking to the Air” featurette; “Recreating Berlin” featurette; Digital copy disc
Length: 120 minutes
Rating: ****

Some organization named this the Best Anti-Fascist Film of the Year, and that may be accurate, but unless you’re a Tom Cruise fan, you might find this an interesting tale but not  totally convincing. It is based on the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who came from a noble Prussian family who lived at one point in a castle.  Neither he nor any of the conspirators in what became known as the July 20th Plot were members of the Nazi party. They were just military people in the German army. Von Stauffenberg was originally approached by an uncle about becoming part of the resistance but he turned it down. He approved of Hitler’s campaign acumen and even of the invasion of Poland and using the Poles as slaves in German factories, but he was a practicing Catholic and opposed the Jewish Solution and the furthering of the war when it became clear that Germany was going to be invaded and would lose the war.

There were from 17 to 42 different attempts on Hitler’s life, beginning back in the 1920s, and the Valkyrie (Anglicization of the German Die Walküre) Plot was the final one.  Just nine short months after its failure and the execution of von Stauffenberg and his accomplices, Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker. The Valkyrie option was some sort of emergency operation that could be called into being by one of the high generals, assembling a special army contingent to take over the protection of Hitler and his staff in case of some sort of uprising. Von Stauffenberg’s plan was to activate this operation in conjunction with the assassination of Hitler.

The first of two attempts failed because Himmler and Goering had not appeared at the same meeting with Hitler and the other conspirators in charge ordered Von Stauffenberg to hold off. The entire responsibility fell on von Stauffenberg for the second attempt, because he both planted the bomb at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair and then flew back to Berlin to coordinate the governmental takeover by the conspirators, who hoped to offer a truce to the Allies. He was stretched too thin, and seeing the tremendous blast he was sure Hitler had been killed, but he hadn’t. Also, his co-conspirator who was supposed to call out the Valkyrie contingent had failed to do so for several hours since he was uncertain of the outcome of the bombing – part of the plot had been for an insider at the Wolf’s Lair to disconnect all communications in and out.  Eventually von Stauffenberg and his allies were all arrested and executed.

The various top actors all do a fine job in this Nazi costume drama, even Eddie Izzard – of all people. Cruise is believable, except that when he replaces his left eye patch with his artificial eye before going into Hitler’s presence, we see his left eye moves the same as his right eye.  (Perhaps were this not Blu-ray definition we wouldn’t notice that!)  There’s a lot of Germanic stomping around, and once you get used to all the actors speaking their own accented perfect English without a German accent the mood is quite respectful of the historical material at hand.  It seems that somehow the whole thing could have been made more riveting and exciting, but I’m not sure quite how.

The hi-res surround – courtesy of my new Oppo Blu-ray universal player – is superb. It was also a pleasure to have the Blu-ray disc load in less than 30 seconds instead of being able to read War and Peace while waiting. The warfare scenes are realistic sonically and the image quality was slightly superior to what I got on the previous Oppo 983H player.  The seven featurettes on the movie disc – in addition to the two commentary tracks – are all well worth watching.

 – John Sunier

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