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Valkyrie


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#1 K Borowski

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Posted 26 December 2008 - 05:29 PM

Due perhaps to initial unfair criticism of to the movie's leading man, I might have given this film *too much* of a chance. "Valkyrie" got off to a quick start, accentuated perhaps, by my missing the film's very beginning. The colonel gets wounded and is promptly shipped back to Europe as a war hero. There is an eerie sense of deja-vu that one gets from the similarities between the fake eye of the colonel and the fake eyes of Cruise's character in "Minority Report".

The crux of the matter is that, we know what is going to happen, and the movie doesn't do a good enough of a job at trying to detach us from our knowledge of what is going to happen. Frankly I wouldn't have minded this as much if, for the last half-hour of the film, the plot has already been carried out against Hitler. There is almost a feeling of relief when everyone gets arrested, as it puts the characters, and the film out of its misery.

Not that the film was a clunker, or dead on arrival. The tension created from the sequence where they are trying to assassinate Hitler is masterfully done. There is plenty of intrigue, conflicts of interest, and suspense. But, frankly there is too little. Too much attention is paid, perhaps to historical accuracy in this film (which I am shocked to find myself saying), at the expense of dramatic license and the building of suspense.

Too much, again, is paid to the events that occur after the attempt, which is counterintuitive, because, with the explosion of the bomb, comes the climax of the movie and the end of the viewers' suspensions of disbelief. The bomb jolted everyone back to the reality of the ending of the event.

Visually it is disappointing to find no more stunning visuals in the film past what we see in the trailer. The rest of the film, frankly, is quite bland visually. The muted, cool, color pallette, along with Fuji's quite different rendition of the color red, suits the story well, but there wasn't any sparkle to the visuals that so many other recent WWII movies have managed to pull off. The cinematography only really sparkles in the crane shot over the Nazi banners outside of the SS compound. The Cruise Nazi salute and the allusive (yet random) cigarette-burned mosquito shot are probably two of the most enduring visuals in the film otherwise.

Ultimately, the one area where this film does stay true to the classic WWII genre is in its casting-aside of its actresses entirely. The wonderful Carice van Houten is given maybe a half-dozen lines in the whole film and the only other actress of any real import is the secretary assigned to the Colonel near the end of the film. Watch "Black Book" to see what an injustice was done to Ms. van Houten's talents. I was expecting much much more from her character. Instead she is shipped off into hiding almost immediately and that is all we see of her. The only person we see less of in the film besides her is Hitler!

A final thought: It was interesting to see the presence of 35mm Arris in the movie. I love the shot in the movie where a whole bunch of troops jump out of one plane that has just landed, then the door opens on the second plane and a lone cameraman with a 35mm movie camera jumps out of it :-)

However, in light of the film's having to reshoot key scenes due to a lab mishap destroying footage, I wonder if the shot of the cameraman filmming hangings is alluding to either wishful thinking or a metaphor for the reshoot or a metaphor for the impending decline of 35mm film due to digital.
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 28 December 2008 - 12:01 AM

Nice review, I look forward to seeing this.

My only beef with this chapter of WWII history is that the general's who carried out this plot are now celebrated as heroes. The reason I take exception to that is because they all did nothing when Germany was winning the war, and where only too happy to carry out Hitler's orders.

When things started to go really bad for Germany, only then, did they decide to act. They didn't act out of an altruistic desire to save the Jews and stop the holocaust. If they had killed Hitler in 1939 the whole war would probably have been avoided.

Well hindsight is 20/20 of course.

R,
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#3 Krystian Ramlogan

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Posted 29 December 2008 - 12:53 PM

I'm not sure you really gave the film a chance: your opening statement already alludes to your perspective being affected by the media's fascination with Mr. Cruise, whether you think you are trying to be fair or to compensate for said attention.

Your comments are also unclear. For example,

"There is plenty of intrigue, conflicts of interest, and suspense. But, frankly there is too little." What is anyone to take away from that?

Maybe you could re-exmaine your reaction to the film, move away from meandering opinion and provide a more valid criticism of the film?

I've seen Valkyrie. While I agree it may not be as gripping or suspensful as other films (the Dirty Dozen being one of my favorites), particularly as you say - once the bomb goes off, the film has a lot more to offer than your "critique" suggests.

I also disagree with your analysis of the films cinematography. We agree it told/supported the story, but it also invited us into the world these characters inhabit and there was no attempt to give us meaninglessly pretty visuals or money shots - what purpose would that serve? The choice of angle/shot provided good continuity, the sequences were well thought out, and each scene benefitted from what seems to be a refined and controlled approach to telling this story. Color Palette, I didn't have a problem with it, in my opinion it supported the story.

What films are you comparing Valkyrie's cinematography to?

Once a supporting character has fulfilled its purpose, then let's move on. Why should that be a detraction from the perceived quality of the film? Was Superman: The Movie any less because Marlon Brando was only there for a few minutes? Or Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda - her role is almost exactly the same as Carice van Houten in Valykyrie?

As always feel free to disagree and to enlighten, this is just my 2c and nothing is cast in stone.

K.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 04 January 2009 - 11:10 PM

To keep things short and simple, the film was just WEAK. It had no heart, nothing to really care about other than a bunch of guys' languid discontent with their fuhrer. I lost count of how many helicopter shots there were of a vintage care driving through the Prussian countryside. The film seemed more of a practice in style rather than content for Singer. Sigel's work was great as usual, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more grit or just something different in his work rather than so many nice, smooth, clean dolly & crane shots.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:21 AM

To keep things short and simple, the film was just WEAK. It had no heart, nothing to really care about other than a bunch of guys' languid discontent with their fuhrer. I lost count of how many helicopter shots there were of a vintage care driving through the Prussian countryside. The film seemed more of a practice in style rather than content for Singer. Sigel's work was great as usual, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more grit or just something different in his work rather than so many nice, smooth, clean dolly & crane shots.


I haven't seen it yet, but I don't think a handheld style would have made up for a weak story -- I get a little tired of that trend anyway, to "jazz up" everything with artificial tension through faux-documentary shooting.

I just watched "The Duchess" on Blu-Ray and was glad to see someone not embrace this current trend towards shooting period movies in a rough style out of fear of being boring.

I also remember reading about how Van Sant and Savides started out shooting "Milk" in a documentary style and abandoned it, which I am grateful for. It's nice to see actual wide and medium shots during dialogue scenes now and then and retain a sense of time and place. I find that a lot of tight handheld shots can actually be distancing rather than involving, because I lose any sense of where I am.

Anyway, lately I've been watching a lot of older movies and really appreciate classical notions of establishing space and arranging characters within architecture, etc.

It sounds like the problems with "Valkyrie" extend beyond stylistic choices. Though I look forward to seeing it soon -- I love WW2 movies. Have been watching "A Bridge Too Far" again this week.
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#6 K Borowski

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:36 AM

I haven't seen it yet, but I don't think a handheld style would have made up for a weak story -- I get a little tired of that trend anyway, to "jazz up" everything with artificial tension through faux-documentary shooting.

[. . .]

Anyway, lately I've been watching a lot of older movies and really appreciate classical notions of establishing space and arranging characters within architecture, etc.

It sounds like the problems with "Valkyrie" extend beyond stylistic choices. Though I look forward to seeing it soon -- I love WW2 movies. Have been watching "A Bridge Too Far" again this week.


I have to admit, I wasn't paying too much heed to cinematography when I saw this, but I don't recall any exceptionally obnoxious hand-held shots in the film. In fact, I hate to say this, but it may have been too *smooth*.

I was hoping that this film, from what I saw in the trailer would aspire to continue the trend of classic films, especially older WWII films, but it just seemed to play it "safe" throughout, just a very conservative shooting style. I can't blame this on the cinematography, perhaps these shots are on the cutting room floor, but I was immensely disappointed that the only good cinematography I noticed was all in the trailer.

I love WWII movies too, and not just the ones that play off of nostalgia or glamor, but what is it about big budget WWII movies and failure? They all seem to flop with a few notable exceptions. Look at some of the big budget duds in this genre:

"Valkyrie"
"Pearl Harbor"
"Midway"
"Tora Tora Tora"


"Saving Private Ryan" and "Enemy at the Gate" are the only two real successes I can think of OTOH.

Seems like the big-budget films are very prone to being flops, whereas the lower-budget character-oriented films set in WWII seem to fare much better.

"Black Book", "The Pianist", "The Counterfeiters" and a whole score of other successful films I can think of.


I don't know, I guess I am just really hoping to see that one last big WWII epic film that really clicks and becomes a classic. I hope I don't have to see too many more "Valkyries" before that time.
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#7 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 05:38 AM

The film seemed more of a practice in style rather than content for Singer.

The good man is very fond of shooting dialogue scenes with 2 cameras moving laterally on dollies and zooming in at the same time. Not sure I'd call that directing though.
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#8 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 10:09 PM

I haven't seen it yet, but I don't think a handheld style would have made up for a weak story -- I get a little tired of that trend anyway, to "jazz up" everything with artificial tension through faux-documentary shooting.


I agree David, just visually I would like to have seen something "new" in regards to Sigel. It definitely has his stamp on it for having clean images, nice lighting and smooth camera movement. I guess I just got what I expected, and nothing more. I still admire the man, though, I'm just always hoping to be impressed by the artists I'm a fan of.
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#9 Krystian Ramlogan

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 11:55 PM

The film and its cinematography were very slick. I also feel that perhaps that worked against it: the entire film did seem to flow too easily, moving right along to almost a non-event.

There was a certain amount of suspense at times, but not a whole lot of conflict; things seemed to go too well for the conspirators.

But, then again War Films are really hit or miss. Maybe it's our expectations of what the film should offer?

I remember "My Name is Ivan" and "Ballad of a Soldier": two films that nailed what war really meant, and with such different approaches.

Valkyrie wouldn't hold up in comparison, but although I'm not sure where things fell apart: script or direction, even with the negatives, the film does have something to offer.

It reminds me a bit of Jarhead, but most had positive opinions of that film in contrast to this one.

K.
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#10 Tim Tyler

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 09:48 AM

I was disappointed with Valkrie's style as well.

After the opening, the look felt rather like television to me. The narrow aspect ratio, lots of boring over-the-shoulder shots, and simple blocking. I agree with Karl; "safe and conservative."

There were a few nice moments. There's a low angle, head to toe shot of Cruise and an officer having a conversation in an ornate hallway that was straight out of Lean, but they cut out of that into OTS after just a few seconds. The meeting in the room with large windows at Hitler's house was also nice as the wide shots let the windows play often in the scene.

Like David, I enjoy and appreciate the wide classic framing of older films where you can feel the environment and watch the actors move about, from foreground to background, without being forced into a close-up. Recently I watched The Hustler and was mesmerized by the first reel which is almost exclusively long, extra wide shots in a pool hall, with expert blocking, and no music.
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#11 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 10 January 2009 - 01:03 AM

Well, at least in the end Bryan Singer got to work with General Zod.
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#12 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 07:29 PM

I'll give it a shot, but I definitely have my doubts.

I do like Singer and his work though, he just seems to be slipping a little over the years, and I can't exactly tell what direction he's heading in.
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