Friday, December 26, 2008

Valkyrie (Rhoades)

‘Valkyrie’ Tells of Plot to Kill Hitler

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sometimes when I’m in New York I have dinner with my friend Veruschka, the famous ’60s supermodel. She was born Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinhort, daughter of a German count who was executed for his part in the 20th July 1944 plot to kill Hitler. This assassination attempt by high-ranking members of the German Reserve Army was codenamed “Valkyrie.”
A movie about that plot – “Valkyrie” starring Tom Cruise – is playing at the Tropic Cinema.
Okay, admit it. You never thought you’d see a Tom Cruise movie at an indie venue like the Tropic.

But Tomcat is busily reinventing his image, looking for a little boost to a sagging Hollywood A-lister career.

So he did “Valkyrie.” Not exactly “Mission Impossible,” but as close as history will allow. This is the heart-pounding story of German officers – led by Tom Cruise in this telling – plotting to kill Hitler.

Unfortunately, as we know, the assassination attempt failed. But history buffs and action fans alike will enjoy watching Cruise (wearing an eye patch) make a run at killing Der Fuehrer.
As his character puts it, “You can serve Germany, or the Fuehrer. Not both!”

Operation Valkyrie (Unternehmen Walküre) was initially a plan developed for the German Reserve Army to use in the event that Allied bombing of German cities resulted in a breakdown of law and order. In an ironic twist, the German Resistance—led by members of the Reserve Army—modified the plan to use it to disarm the SS and arrest the Nazi leadership once Hitler had been assassinated in the July 20 plot.

Hitler’s death was required to free German soldiers from their oath of loyalty to him.
Cruise portrays Col. Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a real-life hero who planted the bomb. As the Reserve Army’s Chief of Staff, Count von Stauffenberg was the only conspirator who had regular access to Hitler, and the only officer with the persuasive power to convince German military leaders to throw in with the coup once Adolf Hitler was dead.
Researchers have determined that if he’d placed the armed briefcase in a slightly different location the bomb would have reached its target. As it transpired, Hitler survived and after a shoot-out at their Bendlerstrasse offices, the conspirators were arrested and executed by firing squad.

The execution was ordered by General Frederick Fromm, who had himself been one of the co-conspirators. British actor Tom Wilkinson (“In the Bedroom,” “Michael Clayton”) was cast in this role to make the treacherous Fromm somewhat more sympathetic.

Others in the cast include Kenneth Branagh, Terrance Stamp, Eddie Izzard, Thomas Kretschmann, Carice van Houten, and David Bamber (as Adolph Hitler).

Directed by Brian Singer, the wunderkind director who gave us “Usual Suspects,” two of the X-Men movies, and “Superman Returns,” the film’s working title was “Untitled Bryan Singer Thriller.” That should give you an idea of what to expect.

Initially, the production was not allowed to film on Bendler Block due to “the dignity of this place.” Eventually, due to the efforts of Tom Cruise, the Ministry of Defense overturned their decision and granted permission for scenes to be filmed at the historic location as long as “the dignity of the place was not tarnished.”

Displaying swastikas is illegal in Germany but the images needed to be used for authenticity. Although “Arts and sciences” – including filmmaking – are specifically exempted, films usually avoid using correct swastikas to prevent public outrage. Therefore, warnings were posted around the filming locations. Still, a local resident filed an official complaint with the city and charges were filed against the owners of the filming sites.

Cruise became interested in the role after seeing a picture of Stauffenberg and noticing a resemblance between his profile and the colonel’s. Although taller than Cruise, Stauffenberg had what Albert Speer described in his memoirs as “mystical good looks.”

Stauffenberg’s last words were “Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!” (Long live our holy Germany!).

Why call this plot to kill Hitler “Valkyrie”? In Norse mythology, the valkyries determined the victors of wars, and carried the most heroic of those who died in battle off to Valhalla.
So went those Germans who did the patriotic thing by committing treason.
[from Solares Hill]

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