It’s surprising that Hollywood never got around to making an all-star epic about the plot of July 1944, in which a group of disgruntled generals, led by the aristocratic von Stauffenberg (Cruise), attempted to off the Führer and rescue Germany’s reputation. The failure of the assassination plan, and the attempted coup that followed, marked the end of organised Germanic resistance to Hitler’s regime.
Director Bryan Singer takes a staunchly old-school approach, assembling a cast of reliable British thesps and dividing the action between swastika-adorned wood-panelled offices and rainswept, shadowy Berlin streets. The period is exactingly recreated, with the camera lingering lovingly over leather jackboots, snarling dogs and those fetishistic, immaculately starched uniforms.
‘Valkyrie’ has serious flaws: the script, by Nathan Alexander and Singer’s longtime compadre Christopher McQuarrie, takes an age to get going and steers clear of any moral ambiguity. Too many of the prestigious cast – notably Kenneth Branagh and token female Carice van Houten – are underused, and the accents are simply ludicrous, with Cruise’s mid-American drawl sitting awkwardly alongside Branagh’s cultured RP and the Führer’s Teutonic whine. But as old-fashioned historical escapism goes, this is solid, compelling stuff.