Published Dec 23, 2008Attempting to portray Nazis as heroes is both difficult and ill advised. History, for good reason, has dehumanized the National Socialist Party members to such an extent that most people cannot see past the demonic caricatures of the goose-stepping, stiff arm-saluting, swastika clad horde of sinister killers.
While there is validity to the conventional depiction of Nazis, and evil Nazis make the perfect bad guys for film, it is also important that we do not lose sight of the fact that they were not one dimensional villains but, in fact, were human beings living under the iron fist of one of the most brutal and powerful dictators in modern history.
Director Bryan Singer (X-Men and X2, Superman Returns) manages to take this difficult subject matter and create an entertaining suspense-thriller based on historical fact, telling the story of a group of men who attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and take control of Germany from the Nazi party in July 1944.
Singer uses the directorial style he developed filming comic books adaptations to great effect, using his technique to distance Valkyrie from the realm of historical drama, keeping the viewer aware that they are watching a fictionalized version of history. The ability to separate Valkyrie from more serious historical fiction is necessary to draw audiences into the story and create pathos without getting bogged down in the disturbing realities surrounding the plot, which focuses on Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) and his fellow conspirators' daring attempt to wrest control of Germany from Hitler's grasp.
Anyone with even a passing knowledge of history will realize that Valkyrie is a fictionalized look at a historical event, focusing on the specific actions of a group of men who sought to overthrow Hitler's reign. Many people will react with anger to the heroic portrayal of men who, in real life, were no doubt involved in, or party to, despicable acts.
This debate is too difficult to even begin to discuss in a short film review but de-contextualized from a larger historical perspective and viewed through the narrow lens of Hollywood film, Valkyrie is a solidly entertaining suspense-thriller. (MGM)