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File:Valkyrie-poster-cruise.jpg

Valkyrie is a 2008 historical drama film about the attempted assasination of Adolf Hitler by a dedicated cabal of German military officers, as well as some non-military personnel. It stars Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson.

Part of what got interest in this film going is that popular consciousness doesn't readily identify any WWII Germany resistence against the Nazi party, in part due to the fact that Hitler remained in power (and alive) until the Allied forces came calling at Berlin's edge. Operation Valkyrie was actually the last of over 15 attempts (and closest to being successful) on Hitler's life by different factions within Germany before the end of the war. Even though the outcome of this assassination attempt is rather obvious, it serves as a reminder of Black and Gray Morality.

Valkyrie itself comes from the prepared plan dictating the direction of power that would transpire should Hitler die. The members of the plot were basing it off manipulating the Valkyrie protocol so that when Hitler died they would be able to unanimously seize power with minimal infighting.

Not to be confused with the mythological characters from which this movie takes its name.


Valkyrie provides examples of:

  • Action Prologue: The movie opens with the Afrika Corps being attacked by the British in Tunisia.
  • Adolf Hitler: The film's main antagonist.
  • Affably Evil: Adolf Hitler. When he meets Stauffenberg for the first time, he praises him for his service and his sacrifices for Germany and then tells his fellow national socialists that they could learn a lot of things from him.
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Stauffenberg and his companions subvert this. They're just Wehrmacht officers and as a matter of fact, although some of them had been involved in war crimes, most of them were also known for their participation in the German resistance against the Nazi regime and for saving Jews and other minorities from concentration camps and/or mass executions. Henning von Trescow's words -- "We have to show the world that not all of us are like him." -- say it all.
  • Artistic License Geography:
    • Smolensk in March is usually a quagmire of melting snow, ice, and mud.
    • The Berghof was built onto the side of a hill and not the direct top.
    • The inaccurate composition of the East Prussian forests surrounding the Wolf's Lair.
  • Artistic License History: Numerous.
    • In the morning whilst shaving, Stauffenberg deliberately cuts himself with the blade; it's an excuse to "change his clothes" in the base (in reality a chance to arm the explosives), because the film couldn't portray him sweating. That's right, kids: cutting yourself works.
    • One of the most glaring violations is during the lead-up to the assassination attempt: Major Freyend diverts Stauffenberg from the bunker with the excuse that it's too hot -- true to life, it was indeed a sweltering mid-July day, but nobody was going into the bunker since it was undergoing structural reinforcement carried out by slave workers. For the sake of differentiation, Stauffenberg had performed a dry run in there on the 15th.
    • Berlin also seems to look remarkably pristine, despite the fact that it had been subjected to countless Allied air raids before the plot was even put into motion.
  • Bald of Awesome: Colonel Quirnheim.
  • Composite Character: Some minor figures were combined in Ian McNeice's character, who is identified as "Pompous General" in the credits.
  • Cyanide Pill: The Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels put what is obviously a suicide pill in his mouth before being confronted by the German army coming to arrest him, just in case he wasn't able to get out of that situation.
  • Dirty Coward: Friedrich Fromm.
  • Doomed by Canon: It's hardly a spoiler to say Hitler survives the attempted coup.
  • Downer Ending
  • Driven to Suicide: Ludwig Beck. In Real Life, he shot himself in the head twice and still didn't die.
    • Also Henning von Tresckow who holds a grenade underneath his chin. Truth in Television because he really did do this in order to make it look like he had been killed in the war save his family the shame of watching his execution.
  • Eureka Moment: Guess what Stauffenberg is listening to when he gets the idea for Operation Valkyrie?
  • Eyepatch of Power: Truth in Television. Cruise actually spent months learning to work with the eyepatch, and stated that while he found it difficult to work with, he acknowledged the real von Stauffenberg would have found it difficult as well.
  • Fake Nationality: All the Germans (except for Quirnheim and some minor characters) are played by British actors (and Tom Cruise).
  • Famous Last Words: "Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!". Translates to "Long live our sacred Germany", but the film truncated it a bit, removing the "our" (to be fair, there is some dispute about the actual form of Stauffenberg's last words; his biographer, Joseph Hoffmann, makes a good case for "Es lebe das geheime Deutschland!" ("Long live the secret Germany!")
  • Fat Bastard: Hermann Göring, whose small appearance consists of lounging around a lunch table like a fat pig.
    • Which actually sums up his role in WWII quite nicely.
  • Final Speech: "You may hand us over to the executioner, but in three months' time the disgusted and harried people will bring you to book, and drag you alive through the dirt in the streets." Nothing of the sort happened to Judge Freisler, whom the comment was directed at. In fact, he died during the British bombing of Berlin while he was sentencing two women to death -- a bomb fell through the open roof in the middle of the trial and blew him up. A worker in the hospital when the body was brought in commented "It was God's Verdict."
  • Flat Character: All of them.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Even those unfamiliar with the assassination plot itself should know this.
  • Hanging Judge: Judge Roland Freisler.
  • Historical Beauty Update: Interestingly enough, the reason Tom Cruise got interested in the project is because a picture of Stauffenberg bore an uncanny resemblence to himself. That was about where the physical similarity stopped[1], but in general Stauffenberg was considered a handsome man.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The plotters are portrayed as this in the film. Apparently the German officer corps actually cared about Jewish people, was disgusted by their slaughter, and masterminded a plot to assassinate Hitler that would include the closing of concentration camps. In reality the German officer corps, especially the aristocratic elements that made up a fair chunk of it and the plotters, were primarily monarchist and extremely conservative. Tolerant democrats who believed in equality they were not. In many cases, the plotters only turned on Hitler because he was losing the war, and had every intention of fighting on against the Soviet Union. It is however true that it would have been difficult for the audience to get behind protagonists who only disagreed with 40% of Hitler's ideals.
    • Stauffenberg's viewed Poland as "an unbelievable rabble" best under the whip, and as a country filled with "a lot of Jews and a lot of cross-breeds".
    • They weren't ALL so cynical. Tresckow in particular had genuine moral objections to Hitler and believed the plot had to go forward even if it was doomed to fail just to show that there was a resistance (not surprisingly, the movie includes this).
    • Curiously, one of Stauffenberg's colleages said that he intended to declare Germany a worker's state, make a deal with Stalin, and fight on against the Western allies, with or without the Red Army. Stauffenberg, according to this source, thought that the Americans and British would be easier to beat.
  • Hope Spot: When Operation Valkyrie is initiated by Olbricht. The plan was to assassinate Hitler and then declare a state of emergency -- the Wehrmacht would arrest the entire SS, Gestapo, and Nazi Party leadership. A military junta would take control, officially to safeguard Hitler's legacy but in reality to end the war. The Hope Spot is where this succeeds, and the German army seizes control; simultaneously a CMOA. It lasts until Hitler reveals himself to be alive.
  • Kangaroo Court: Based on the real life People's Court, ruled by Roland Freisler.
  • Kill'Em All
  • La Résistance: Unusually for this trope, this movie focuses on the German resistance during World War II rather than that of the occupied countries.
  • Moe Greene Special: The reason for Stauffenberg's Eyepatch of Power.
  • Nazi Germany
  • Nazi Nobleman: Subverted. The film's protagonist is an aristocrat, as well as several of the other plotters.
  • Nazis With Gnarly Weapons: The film's main protagonists, minus the "Nazi" bit.
  • No One Could Survive That: Throughout the short-lived coup, Stauffenberg insists this despite the fact that, as in Real Life, Hitler is Not Quite Dead.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: All of the conspirators with the exception of Merz (played by German Christian Berkel) sound British or American. David Bamber (British) as Hitler does bother.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The central communications officer handling the military orders during the coup. He refuses to take a side and is so bent on remaining neutral that when presented with a Morton's Fork, he sends through both orders. Finally, he blocks communications from Stauffenberg.
  • Playing Against Type: Jokes aside, this is Tom "Top Gun" Cruise playing a Wehrmacht officer with an eyepatch.
  • Precision F-Strike: "The point of replacing Hitler is to negotiate a truce with the Allies. The Allies, I suspect, would be more amenable to a truce if we offered it to them before they get to fucking Berlin!"
  • Punch Clock Villain:
    • Major Remer, who carries out Operation Valkyrie and is manipulated by both sides. In the very end, he arrests Stauffenberg without any enthusiasm at all.
    • Stauffenberg used to be this before joining the German resistance.
  • La Résistance: The main protagonists are part of this.
  • Recycled Trailer Music: The music used in the trailers was the main theme from Saw. "Hello, Zepp."
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: General Fromm again.
  • Shell-Shock Silence
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: The Wagnerian record in Stauffenberg's house, which serves as the inspiration for the operation's title. Semi-justified, as the bombing of Stauffenberg's house would logically push back the needle on the record, bringing it to the start again.
  • Tempting Fate: "Hitler's Germany has seen its last sunrise!" Also doubles as Monologuing and a great line for the trailer.
  • Those Wacky Nazis
  • Translation Convention: After an opening transition, everybody speaks perfect English. The written documents are still in German, and during the coup the reserve army troops issue orders in their native tongue.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Remarked upon by the leader of the Berlin section of the German Army. As they started getting conflicting orders, he realized it was a coup and he wasn't sure which side he was on.
  • V-Formation Team Shot: The theatrical poster.
  • Viewers are Morons: According to the DVD commentary, many of the intricate workings of the German military machine and socio-political circumstances pertaining to and influencing the plot were greatly cut down and reduced to layman's terms through several drafts of the script.
  • What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic: Hitler makes such remarks involving the naming of Operation Valkyrie/Walküre. Justified, given his actual pagan beliefs.
  • Who Is This Guy Again?: Is it just me or did they only state von Quirnheim's name at the very end of the movie?
  • World War Two
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Inverted. The plot gets far, much further than it did in real life. Of course, given Stauffenberg and the other plotters' Historical Hero Upgrade, the short-lived Real Life July 20 plot could count as a subversion.

Notes

  1. Stauffenberg was taller almost by a head
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