Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes, I Want to See Valkyrie

Valkyrie has a lot going against it. Internet hateboys have lined up (or rather, sat in front of their computers) to bash this movie for many reasons. Here are some of the more popular ones:

1) Tom Cruise can't act.
2) Bryan Singer has seen better days.
3) It's a suspense thriller, but we all know how the plot ends, so what's the point, right?
4) The release date has been changed at least three times, for various reasons.
5) None of the characters speak with German accents, and that's like, so dumb, man.

I haven't seen it yet, but I think people should give this movie a chance.

1) Tom Cruise is a good actor. It's in vogue nowadays to hate on the guy. Understandably so. Whether you're still laughing at his couch-jumping on Oprah, or whether you're still waiting for him to say "I was just kidding about psychiatry. I think it's a wonderful field," his behavior and outspoken views on anything and everything were a bit off-putting. He appears to be in the midst of a public-relations extreme makeover. I totally understand if you don't want to support a movie he's in because you disagree with him on a personal level. That's one thing. But don't ignore the fact that he can act. He was perfect in Born on the Fourth of July, nobody else could have played Jerry Maguire the way he did, and he was spot-on as Vincent in Collateral. If I chose not to watch movies starring actors who had political views I disagreed with, I'd almost never go the movies.

2) Bryan Singer is a good director
. Yes, it's been five years since X2. Yes, the last outing, Superman Returns, was an abomination. Yes, he directed Apt Pupil, one of the few movies I've ever rented and turned off twenty minutes in. But anyone capable of directing as good a film as The Usual Suspects has got talent and brains. Also, Christopher McQuarrie, the screenwriter of TUS wrote the screenplay for this movie. McQuarrie is an excellent writer, and he and Singer worked wonders together before. And let's not forget that Singer's treatment of X-Men and X2 was awesome. With both films, I was never once pulled out of the story because I realized I was watching a comic book movie (cough, cough, Spider Man 1-3). Singer brought the focus of the X-Men movies to bear on the themes of alienation and individualism.

3) It doesn't matter that we know the ending. It really doesn't. Trust me on this one. If the film's done well, the plot will work. There was another movie that we all knew the ending to that did pretty well at the box office: Titanic. Sure, there are some differences, but the idea is the same--we all know the ship's going down, but we want to see how it happens and how things turn out for the characters involved. Still not convinced? Then go watch (or read) The Day of the Jackal, one of the best suspense thrillers ever created. The outcome of the story is never in doubt, and yet, you're on the edge of your seat the entire time. Still not convinced? How many of you knew the ending to Romeo and Juliet before you first read or saw a production of it? Huh? Come on, how many of you? Yeah, that's what I thought.

4) The changing of the release date could mean a lot of things. This is the strongest argument against seeing this film, if you ask me. But I would state that this could mean a lot of things. I read somewhere that the producers or the studio pushed it back initially because they wanted Cruise to work on his German accent. I don't know if that's true or not, but that really doesn't matter (see below). I also heard that the studio wasn't sure how to market this film when they saw it, which isn't necessarily a sign that it's bad. Perhaps they were expecting a big-time action box office smash, let's release it during the summer, kind of movie. And they panicked when they didn't get that. But if you believe Singer, all along he wanted to create a solid suspense thriller. He wasn't going for Michael-Bay type action, and he wasn't looking for Oscar nominations.

5) German accents wouldn't make any sense. Seriously, they wouldn't. Think about it. The story takes place in Germany. We know the characters are speaking German. Therefore, there's no need to have them speak English with a German accent. It's unnecessary. If you think about it, the characters in Star Wars probably aren't speaking English. Though, who knows with George Lucas. Aside from that, though, I've heard that Singer uses an interesting technique to remind us throughout the movie that the characters are speaking German.

So, I say that Valkyrie is worth a watch, either at the theater or as a rental at home. Judge the movie all you want after you see it, but at least have a good reason for doing so. People love to hate, don't they?


Anonymous said...

3") It doesn't matter that we know the ending. It really doesn't."

Oh yes it least when it comes to this movie (and I admittedly do have the advantage of having seen it).

To use one of your examples, picture Titanic where the whole story revolves around whether or not the ship will go then have Valkyrie.

So many good parts to the film (although Cruise is not among them). It could have been something special, but it meanders its way to average.

But it is worth a look just out of the curiosity factor.

Brian O'Rourke said...


Well now I'm going to have to post something after I see it so we can have a proper discussion :)

What did you think the good parts were? (Assuming you can discuss without spoiling them)

I take your point about Titanic, but if that's the case then it seems to me that Valkyrie is more in the vein of The Day of the Jackal. Only here, the would-be assassin is the hero as opposed to the antagonist.

Anonymous said...

The British supporting cast is spectacular -- they make the flick worth seeing almost by themselves. The visuals are grand and stimulating. Overall, it's like a meal prepared with the very finest ingredients but based on a bad recipe (picture a caviar, truffle and escargot Domino's pizza).

You go right to the best counterpoint to what the movie is in The Day of the Jackal, which is incredible at building suspense. I can't with certainty say why Jackal did and Valkyrie didn't but I look to a few possibilities -- not knowing whether the Jackal lived or died, far greater character development (Valkyrie is just a gaggle of uniforms flashing across the screen) and the very simple Jackal is a much better designed movie.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Very interesting. And for me, the British cast alone is reason enough to see this film.

I liked your Domino's pizza analogy. I wonder if they offer the caviar, truffle, and escargot as part of their 5-5-5 deal.

Nick Hughes said...

I had a British supporting cast once when I broke my nose. It was a little too snotty for me.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Who are you and what have you done with Nick Hughes? Nick Hughes doesn't ever come out with national slurs.

But hey, if it increases traffic on here...