One thing about being in Mexico on Christmas (something my astoundingly American family tends to do) is you miss out on that wonderful Christmas tradition of the movie theatre. Everything in Casas Grandes is dubbed into Spanish (a language my American family knows very little about). One thing about being in Mexico on Christmas is that you can avoid going to the theatre with your family, who tend to choose movies based on majority rules and not on my expert opinion. I proposed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, they proposed Valkyre, and I thanked God (thank you, God) they didn’t choose Marley and Me.
None of the movies we could have seen on Christmas would have been as quiet or small as I would like them to be. Clearly Spirit, Marley and Me, and Frost/Nixon won’t be competing with Let the Right One In, or Milk. However, Valkyrie was the opposite. A production. At times this production seemed very affective. At others it was overblown and silly, even for so significant a story.
One thing that Bryan Singer seems to have mastered is his ability to hammer themes and images into your head until your ears (or eyes) are bleeding. Speaking of bleeding eyes, isn’t it cool that the guy missing the eye is the only one who really sees? Likewise, Singer must explain the entire workings of the Nazi party in a few choice sentences clearly, which comes across awkward and forced, as sentences meant for an audience usually do. So do images that explain key known characteristics of certain figures (such as Hitler’s vegetarianism…why are they always pointing to that as a factor in his psychotic nature and not his awful choice of facial hair?) that linger for far too long.
Most disappointing about the film is the one-sided nature of our main characters. Someone the other day was saying that their film teacher told them that a good movie uses it’s most interesting characters as the main characters, and a bad movie only uses those interesting characters as minor, passing figures. This was certainly true of Valkyrie, which focuses on the one-sided, woodenly acted, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, and (I would argue) the overbearing (yet mostly absent) Adolf Hitler, who is accompanied on screen by Jaws-like cellos. While Tom Cruise’s character never falters in his ideals, never fears the consequences, and is generally an all around Mission Impossible-like, secret agent dude, the film passes over characters like General Friedrich Fromm (Tom Wilkinson) who constantly struggles over his position in regards to the coup. And I was most interested in the leader of the reserve army, who was so inconsequential to the film that I can’t remember his name, and yet who captured what I believe to be the ideal ambivalent feeling of such a story every time he was on screen.
While a film like Valkyrie seems positive in its politics and themes, the film is fairly unmemorable. My family, after filing out of the theatre generally inspired. Is now sitting around the television watching Christmas with the Kranks and eating delicious Christmas popcorn.