December 23, 2008

WHO WILL BREAK IT TO MORGENTHAU AND FDR?:

THE REICH STUFF: LOVE THE MOVIE, HATE THE STAR (Kyle Smith, 12/23/08, NY POst)

The handling of the story - of opera-loving gentlemen who met secretly by twos in lavatories and forests to make risky but exciting propositions to each other - has a degree of camp, and it can be lax on the details. Would Stauffenberg really chat so freely about high treason to everyone who wanders within earshot? And what's with pronouncing "Goebbels" "Go Bells"?

But the Third Reich was soaked in theater; the legends, the flags, the redoubts they themselves dubbed "the Wolf's Lair" and "the Eagle's Nest." Given that, it takes only a tweak to turn its leaders back into gleaming, heel-clicking supervillains, as they were for decades until the recent movie trend of giving WWII the art-house treatment. "Any problem on earth can be solved with the careful application of high explosives," says one character. Maybe not, but it would be nice if so.

Like many of the earlier WW II action yarns, this one has a more than grudging respect for the steely codes of the German - not Nazi - spirit, the thing that causes a man who realizes the game is over to briskly call out, "I'd like a pistol, please. For personal reasons." The washed-out look, the murderous da-DUNT score and the supporting cast (Stamp and Bill Nighy, as a blanching co-conspirator, are particularly good, as is the perpetually weaselly Tom Hollander as an Adolphile who senses something is up) are all keenly chosen.

The full story of "Valkyrie" has never received the full Hollywood feature treatment before. It was overdue. It's thrilling to consider how close this group of iron-willed patriots came to bringing about Hitlerdämmerung.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 23, 2008 9:52 AM
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