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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Operation Valkyrie: The Stauffenberg Plot to Kill Hitler

So you’ve seen the Tom Cruise Valkyrie and you’re wondering, Is that how it actually went down? Turns out, pretty much. This new documentary, which was produced in conjunction with a German organization dedicated to chronicling the German resistance to Hitler, is a straight-ahead assemblage of talking-head scholars and historians plus elderly cousins and greatgrandwhatevers of Claus von Stauffenberg (the real-life German military officer Cruise plays in the Bryan Singer film) reflecting on the details of the man, the plot, and why it failed. (Oh, pul-leeze don’t tell me you don’t know Hitler survived until he committed suicide in April 1945.) There’s a bit of background on Hitler and his roll over Europe and on prior attempts on Hitler’s life — there were many — as well as why high-ranking German patriots like Stauffenberg finally decided they had to take matters into their own hands. But fans of the Singer film will appreciate more the much deeper background on Stauffenberg than that other film offers (and you’ll have to ignore the slightly cheesy dramatic reenactments this doc attempts: they suffer by comparison with Singer). Plus, there’s tons of newsreel footage of Nazi Germany and — in the main film but also among the bonus features — color home movies of Hitler that I’ve never seen before, and that are absolutely riveting. Hitler dancing, Eva Braun picking flowers… these images of people we have come to think of as profoundly evil behaving like, you know, ordinary folk are deeply eerie, and inexpressibly disturbing.

MPAA: not rated

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