I'm going to start with the obvious -- Tom Cruise is in this movie.
Given his "glib" behavior (Hey Tom, if you can dish it out to Matt Lauer then I hope you can take it too) over the past three years and the obvious attempts he and Ms. Holms made at stealing away the much deserved publicity for BATMAN BEGINS with their odd-ball behavior, the Colorado couple has become a much loathed duo amongst the On Film gang. To put it lightly, I had my doubts about Cruise's ability to pull off a historical figure with the depth and importance of Stauffenberg (yes, yes...I'll explain just WHO that is momentarily). Congratulations Mr. Cruise, you are beginning to regain credibility in my eyes.
So what's the premise...
The film is based on the true events surrounding a plot hatched by high ranking German officials during WW2 to assassinate Adolph Hitler, in an attempt to overthrow the SS and Nazi party and seize control of the military in order to negotiate with the Allied forces to end the war. At the urging of Colonel Stauffenberg, the group ultimately decides upon reorganizing Operation Valkyrie, Hitler's own emergency plan, in order to assassinate Hitler and regain control of the German government.
Colonel Claus von Strauffenberg (played by Cruise) is a loyal officer whose service and patriotism for his country ultimately lead him to understand that in order to save his country, he must join the German resistance in an effort to stop Hitler before Germany as well as the rest of Europe are destroyed. Despite his fear and knowledge that his wife and children could be harmed, Strauffenberg accepts the task of killing Adolph Hitler. Cruise portrays this role with thoughtful realism- giving his character a range and depth of emotion- from tenderness to disgust. Though Strauffenberg's aristocratic background is never mentioned in the film, Cruise has also incorporated qualities of a certain period perfect genteelness into his characterization of the Colonel.
Also of note is Bill Nighy's portrayal of General Friedrich Olbricht, Chief of the General Army in the Army High Command responsible for Staffenberg's reassignment from a Panzer unit in North Africa to a position with the Army High Command, allowing him personal access to Hitler. Nighy humanizes Olbricht to a point of frailty- a perspective not readily expected in a dramatization of military maneuvers, war, and assassination plots. It is refreshing, however, to view these men as vulnerable, and it gives rise to one of the film's greatest achievements- it forces the viewer, most likely for the first time, to view the German army and government during the period of Nazi rule with more analytical, and perhaps more sympathetic, scrutiny.
The cinematography, costuming, and authenticity of filming locations and scenery all serve to enhance this already engaging historical film. I thought it was outstanding- a clear choice for holiday viewing