Movies with known endings are not attractive to most viewers. After all, you already know beforehand how the movie would end, so there’s no incentive to watch it. Movies based on history suffer from this prejudice. And most movies based on history had to take a creative license just to make them interesting (hence the fact the this genre is best left to be presented as a documentary). Not interesting = boring, a formula that most movie goers would avoid.
Fortunately for Valkyrie, this was not the case.
This movie is a classic example of a movie with a known ending (that is, if you know your history). You know that in the end, Claus von Stauffenberg (the character played by Tom Cruise) would die. The plot to kill Adolf Hitler (played by David Bamber) would fail. Yet the movie worked.
I think in my case, I approached the watching of the film this way: I am curious on how the movie will present von Stauffenberg’s story. And here the movie found its success – it was a gripping film, with the way the suspense was made. I couldn’t help but wince when some of the characters dilly-dally; I couldn’t help but curse silently when the first attempt failed due to indecisiveness. I was actually hoping that the plot would succeed even if I already know it won’t. And the ending was draining, but with an ironic consolation that I had not grasped when I first found out about von Stauffenberg.
Director Bryan Singer and scripwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander presented the story in an engaging way, without much deviation with historical facts. John Ottman’s editing is tight, and his score subdued on most parts. Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise, so we’ll have to excuse his acting. But the supporting cast assembled for this film is a powerhouse. Who could go wrong in casting Kenneth Branagh (who looked like Ewan MacGregor), Tom Wilkinson, Terrence Stamp (regal as always, the male Judy Dench), and Bill Nighy. When I saw Nighy, I almost shouted “Viktor!”, in reference to his character in the movie Underworld. Brilliant actor, I must say.
Overall, your two hours will be well spent watching this movie. You can learn some lessons from the movie, not the least history of the German resistance to the Nazi regime. And of course, it is a cautionary tale for us: apathy will lead us to no good.