NYT derides Valkyrie movie

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There are no discernibly nasty Nazis in “Valkyrie,” though Hitler and Goebbels skulk about in a few scenes, shooting dark, ominous looks at the heroic German Army officer played by Tom Cruise. Perhaps they’re wondering what this Hollywood megastar is doing in their midst, a sentiment that you may come to share while watching Mr. Cruise — who gives a fine, typically energetic performance in a film that requires nothing more of him than a profile and vigor — strut about as one of history’s more enigmatic players.

That enigma was Claus von Stauffenberg, a count and a colonel who, though he lost one eye, an entire hand and several fingers while fighting on behalf of the Reich, made several attempts to assassinate Hitler and seize control of the government. At the core of Stauffenberg’s spectacularly ambitious plot was Valkyrie, Hitler’s plan for the mobilization of the home army that Stauffenberg hoped to hijack in order to quash the SS and its leaders. It didn’t work, of course, for complicated reasons, though also because by 1944, as William L. Shirer bluntly puts it in “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” the conspirators were “terribly late.”

You don’t learn how belated the coup d’état was in “Valkyrie,” which might matter if this big-ticket production with Mr. Cruise in an eye patch and shiny, shiny boots had something to do with reality. But the director, Bryan Singer (of the “X-Men” franchise), and the writers, Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, aren’t interested in delivering a history lesson: that’s why Ken Burns was born. Slick, facile entertainment is the name of the game here, as it is in all Mr. Singer’s films, including “Apt Pupil” (about a Nazi war criminal and the American boy next door who outs him) and “The Usual Suspects,” an intricately plotted story with men and guns, secrets and shadows that Mr. McQuarrie wrote....

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