A coup, indeed

Valkyrie isn’t a bomb after all

Starring Tom Cruise, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. Directed by Bryan Singer. Feather River Cinemas, Paradise Cinema 7 and Tinseltown. Rated PG-13.
Rated 4.0

What do Waterworld, Titanic and Valkyrie have in common? Let’s see: They all have one-word titles. They all nearly sunk studios with their extensive, expensive shoots that took star power to see through. They all got terrible press—lots of it—and were branded box-office bombs even before their test screenings.

Waterworld ended up being a so-so film that grossed $264 million worldwide. Titanic won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, and reigns as top earner of all time at $1.8 billion.

And Valkyrie? Somewhere in the middle—a fine film that’s already recouped $30 million of the $135 million United Artists poured into it. Who knows, it might even get an Oscar nod or two.

Tom Cruise, who greenlit Valkyrie for himself after taking over the studio, is the conspicuous centerpiece. He plays Claus von Stauffenberg, a disaffected colonel in the German army who becomes the linchpin of a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Anyone who got at least a C in history knows what happened. (I won’t spoil it for the D and F students.) The fact that this retelling is pulse-poundingly tense from start to finish is a testament to the production Cruise assembled.

Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men) brings out the believable best in Cruise and draws out taut performances from the all-star supporting cast: Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson. He tightly frames scenes both sweeping and intimate. He gives a script that risked overindulgence just the right measure of grandeur.

Valkyrie may not fully vindicate Cruise, whose image long ago eclipsed his ability. But he can take satisfaction from a film well-made—and, at least by one audience, well-received.