Went to see the film last Tuesday, and I agree with Lex that it is well worth seeing. Cruise does a credible job as Stauffenberg, and most of the acting is well done, although the mix of accents…a lot of American English and various flavors of English-English, plus a bit of German…was slightly bizarre. I was particularly impressed with Halina Reijn’s portrayal of a minor character, Margarethe van Oven (secretary to the conspirators.) She had almost no speaking lines, but has a wonderfully expressive face, and uses it well to portray her character’s emotions.
One aspect of the film, though, seems to me to be unjust and historically inaccurate.
Erich Fellgiebel, who commanded army communications, is portrayed in the film as a man who joined the conspiracy only after being browbeaten into doing so by Stauffenberg, and is also portrayed–alone among the conspirators–as showing evident terror at the time of his arrest. In essence, the film positions Fellgiebel as an unwilling conspirator and a coward. I see nothing in the historical record to justify such a portrayal. The real Fellgiebel was already involved with the conspiracy in 1939 (four years before the time period shown in the film.) Following his arrest, he behaved with exemplary courage, withstanding torture for weeks in order to protect subordinates who had not yet been arrested. At his trial, he told the judge (the loathsome Roland Freisler) that he’d better hurry up with the hangings, or he himself would hang before the accused. The real Fellgiebel has little to do with the man portrayed under his name in Valkyrie. There were plenty of real cowards in the Third Reich: it was not necessary to portray a genuinely courageous man in this way.
This is really sort of an action movie, focused on the “what” of the events and the “who” of the individual characters–their actions and their behavior under stress–more than on the “why” of their motivations. Considerable effort was clearly made toward visual realism, with details such as Junkers trimotor transport planes and a reconstruction of a teletype-and-paper-tape-based message switching center (the 1940s equivalent of an e-mail server.) The movie succeeds in maintaining a high level of dramatic interest, even for those who are already familiar with the historical events on which it is based, and should be extremely interesting for those who do not know this story.
Don gives the movie 8 out of 10 stars: I’d agree with this.
There remains an opportunity for someone to make a movie about this conspiracy which is more focused on character development and individual motivations.