Valkyrie (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for violence and brief strong language.
Length: 121 minutes
Grade: ACAA=A
Budget: $75 million stated, but possibly as high as 100
Box Office: $200 million (83 U.S., 117 Intl.)

Written by: Christopher McQuarrie (Way of the Gun,Usual Suspects) and Nathan Alexander (No previous credits)
Directed by: Bryan Singer (Superman Returns, X-Men 2, X-Men, Usual Suspects, and Apt Pupil)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Thomas Kretschmann, and Terrence Stamp.

In the waning years of WW II, as more Germans are becoming aware of the evils of Hilter, several high-ranking military and civilian officials conspire to simultaneously assassinate Hitler and use Hitler’s own contingency plan to secure the government as a way to successfully pull off a coup d’├ętat .

Entertainment Value: A
Gripping. There’s really no better way to describe this. From the very beginning, this mostly unknown true story is really quite amazing in its own right. The makers kept as closely to the true life events as they could. In fact, they left out some true details that they thought no one would believe if they had left them in. The acting is fabulous, and part of what makes this movie work is that you want for it to work out so badly even though of course you know it won’t.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity A, Violence C, Language C, Illegality ?
The violence is moderate, although the opening scene involves a military attack, in which many die and a man loses his eye. There are suicides, a bombing, and a firing squad. The language is perfectly PG-13, neither excessive nor inappropriate given the setting.

Significant Content: A
When your country is being led by an evil man, the only way to show loyalty to your country is to take it back from him. Many Germans not only hated Hitler but actively gave their lives trying to bring him down. It is better to die trying to oppose evil than to cooperate with it. It’s important to know that this movie refuses to preach a message. Instead, it is merely dedicated to telling the story.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
One thing that was interesting about this story is how it demonstrated that , during any coup, lots of people who are neither loyalists nor rebels are forced to place their lives on the line by betting not so much on who they support but on who they think will succeed in the end. These bets are instrumental in actually determining who wins. The thing I think made this movie stay completely gripping even after the bombing scene is that we don’t really know for sure whether the second half of the movie is being told as accurate history (in which we know that Hitler didn’t die) or as hypothetical history (in which they succeed). Through brilliant storytelling, they manage to maintain interest and plot tension right to the end.

Discussion Questions:
~Stauffenberg could be described as either dedicated, driven, decisive, impatient, or even rash. How would you describe him? It could be argued that his determination alone is responsible for this plot taking place at all. Do you think he would be glad to have tried or not?
~Is Stauffenberg a hero? What marks of a hero does he display? Stauffenberg is shown as a devoted Christian. How does this affect your view of him or of his actions? How do his wounds factor into his willingness to follow this path?
~How do you think German people today feel about a movie like this?
~Do you think this is an important story to be told? Why? Why do you think it isn’t more well known?
~Hitler claims to have been saved by Providence. How do you assess a claim like this? Why do you think God allowed Hitler’s life to be spared? How does this make you feel about God? If Germany had self-corrected rather than being conquered, what would have happened to all those responsible for her crimes? Is it possible she would have regrown yet a third time to threaten the world?
~Do you think it ever becomes morally right to seek the violent overthrow of a government? Does it ever become right to seek the death of a particular leader? Is this murder? Under what circumstances might this be appropriate? What Biblical justification would you give? Can you simultaneously pray for someone like Hitler and also seek to kill him? Stauffenberg says at one point that he is forced to choose between serving the Fuhrer and serving Germany. How is this relevant? Read Romans 13:1-7 and discuss how it relates to this discussion.
~What sort of reaction did you have to the secretaries tearing up when they first heard about Hitler’s death? Did this seem hard for you to comprehend? What can you learn from their reaction as well as from your own?

Overall Grade: A
Very good. Excellent, in fact. This almost didn’t get made because of Cruise’s Scientology and Germany being virulently anti-Scientologist, but I’m certainly glad it came together with all the parts it has.

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