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May 26, 2009
Valkyrie Blu-Ray Movie Review
Cinema Release Blu-Ray Release Distributor Director
22/1/200927/5/2009FoxBryan Singer
Video Codec Sound Format OFLC Rating Star(s)
AVC MPEG-4DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1MTom Cruise

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Tom Cruise as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg.

First things first. Forget what you think about Tom Cruise. If you decide to bypass Valkyrie due to thoughts of his behaviour, or his religious beliefs, then you are doing yourself a massive disservice. Not only is this movie based on a sequence of actual events during World War II but it is, for the most part, historically accurate, brilliantly acted, and superbly directed. I wanted to say that up front because I know quite a few people that passed on this movie at the cinemas simply due to the involvement of Tom Cruise. Foolish people...

In a country in the grips of evil, in a police state where every move is being watched, in a world where justice and honour have been subverted, a group of men hidden inside the highest reaches of power decide to take action. Based on the true story of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg and the daring and ingenious plot to eliminate one of the most evil tyrants the world has ever known.

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The attack in Africa is brutal.
A proud military man, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg is a loyal officer who serves his country all the while hoping that someone will find a way to stop Hitler before Europe and Germany are destroyed. Realizing that time is running out, he decides that he must take action himself and joins the German resistance. Armed with a cunning strategy to use Hitler's own emergency plan - known as Operation Valkyrie - these men plot to assassinate the dictator and overthrow his Nazi government from the inside.

With everything in place, with the future of the world, the fate of millions and the lives of his wife and children hanging in the balance, von Stauffenberg is thrust from being one of many who oppose Hitler to the one who must kill Hitler himself.

Unless you missed grade eight at high school you should be pretty aware of how this turns out, but what you, like I, probably never realised is the extent to which the plan was carried out, and how close it came to ultimate success. There has been some criticism that the filmmakers may have slightly exaggerated parts, but for the most part historians, and more importantly German historians, believe this is a fairly accurate, and faithful representation of what occurred. The attention to detail in this film is astounding with several of the actual remaining locations used for the filming of this movie. Everything from using real planes, to locations, accurate uniforms, likenesses between the actors and real-life counterparts were taken into consideration and it shows.

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Tags showing support to overthrow Hitler.
Across the board the acting in this movie is sensational. We know about the star, Tom Cruise, an we'll get to his role in a moment, but I want to look at the supporting actors. Valkyrie includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Thomas Kretchmann, Terence Stamp, Eddie Izzard and the gorgeous Carice van Houten (can we say that enough about her?). It's rare to get such an ensemble cast together in a movie, but even rarer that every single actor (and dozens more we have not named) are near perfect in their roles. There is not one actor that stands out due to a poor, or over the top, performance and director Bryan Singer must be applauded for bring the best out of everyone - even if they do lack German accents, although I can live without that as it is established at the start of the film with a fade from German to English in both the title, and Tom Cruise talking.

Finally we get to the lead actor, Tom Cruise. No matter what you think of him as a person, professionally or personally, this is certainly one of his most impressive roles to date. There was a lot of debate as to how a big Hollywood actor could play one of the most famous Germans in history, but he pulls it off remarkably well and kudos must go to him, and director Bryan Singer, for transforming Tom Cruise to Claus von Stauffenberg.

A brilliant movie overall Valkyrie will always be seen as a "Hollywood" production, but even Germans have approved of the overall vision and presentation of the film. Acting across the board is superb and while this is an action movie the suspense as the plot comes together is superb. A brilliant movie worthy of any collection for anyone even slightly interested in the subject matter.

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Valkyrie's supporting cast is superb.
Valkyrie comes to Blu-Ray at the films original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in Blu-Ray's typical resolution of 1920 x 1080p and uses the AVC MPEG-4 codec with a bitrate often around the mid-20Mbps mark. As with almost every single release from Fox the video quality is superb. Indeed I will say this up front, this is a reference quality Blu-Ray disc, no doubt about it.

Admittedly this isn't quite the sharpest or most eye-popping presentation we have ever seen on Blu-Ray, butt the fact remains that the detail in the image is often stunningly sharp with natural flesh tones throughout. Even the darker scenes exhibit impressive levels of detail and minimal compression issues. As one would expect from such a recent picture the image is pristine and totally devoid of any film artifacts such as dirt or scratches on the film.

There are a lot of movies that sound great with lossless audio, but I dare you to find one that is as effective, engaging and room shaking as the opening scenes of Valkyrie in North Africa when the British planes attack the German army. Play Chapter 2 between 3:16 and 6:20. Part of this can be put down to the brilliant sound editing and mixing, while the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless audio track is certainly a contributing factor.

Of course that is only one single sample of the brilliant audio on this disc. There are so many other moments of brilliance from the rousing music by composer John Ottman (The Usual Suspects, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) to the crystal clear dialogue.

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Tom Cruise with the gorgeous Carice van Houten.
Other tracks on this disc include an English Descriptive Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 448kbps, Russian DTS 5.1 at 768kbps, Hungarian and Ukrainian (We think) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio at 448kbps. No matter the track, each is impressive with good use of surround sound channels.

Subtitles are provided in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (for the feature and commentaries - well done Fox!), Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Ukrainian, Estonian and Latvian. Subtitles are accurate to the dialogue, with good pacing. I only wish that Fox had put on a plain English subtitle track as well so that those with friends who can read English, but not really understand dialogue with accents, could see the subtitles, but without all the details like "cars honking" and so on.

Right at the top here I will say that this is a near-perfect set of extras. Not only do we get two commentaries, but also a 2 hour documentary about the actual events with more detail the portrayed in the movie, some decent making of featurettes and a 35 minute interview with Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer. I would have liked a little more about the filming and the trailers, but overall, a spectacular set of extras.

Audio Commentary with actor Tom Cruise, director Bryan Singer and writer/producer Christopher McQuarrie: This really is a brilliant commentary which is non-stop, full of detail and has plenty of interesting insights into both the filming, and real-life events. No matter what you think of Tom Cruise, he is quite interesting to listen to with a subject matter he obviously loves and knows a lot about.

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Terence Stamp is brilliant in Valkyrie.
Audio Commentary with writers and producers Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander: This second commentary isn't quite as lively as the first but with the two writers and producers there is, again, plenty of information about this movie.

The Road To Valkyrie (15:56/HD): This all to brief featurette looks at the writing of Valkyrie, finding the director, stars for the movie and the attention to detail and authenticity. The great thing is that this is continual interviews, and there is no fluff fortunately. Certainly the most interesting moment is when a German lady who was at the actual events turned up on the set when filming in Berlin and approved of the authenticity.

The Road To Resistance: A Visual Guide (9:08/HD): Claus von Stauffenberg's grandson gives us a tour of some of the key locations where his grandfather and events of the story took place. A little brief but very interesting.

The African Front Sequence (7:01/HD): This featurette looks at filming the North African sections of the movie.

Taking To The Air (7:32/HD): This featurette looks at using real planes in many of the key scenes in this movie including scenes in Africa where the filmmakers used two Curtiss P-40's for the attack sequences as well the Messerschmitt 109's protecting the JU-52 Junkers in Germany.

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Attention to detail in Valkyrie impresses.
Recreating Berlin (6:51/HD): Obviously much of Berlin was destroyed during the War, and this featurette looks at filming in what remains of the real locations, and recreating locations no longer in existance.

The Valkyrie Legacy (1:54:15/HD): Up until now the extras have all been short featurettes with the filmmakers. What we have here is a near two hour documentary which chronicles the events of the rise of the Nazi Party and the plot to kill Adolf Hitler. This is a brilliant film - stunning even - which is worth the price of the disc alone. Not only that but the documentary/film is presented with 1080p video and while the visual quality isn't up to the standards of the feature film, it is certainly broadcast quality, if not better. Stunning.

92nd Street Y: Reel Pieces with Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer (38:57): While only presented in Standard Definition this is a wonderful interview with the actor and director of Valkyrie. There are some great questions asked of the two, and there are some brilliant responses too. Absolutely worth watching.

As someone who enjoys movies based on real events Valkyrie was a brilliant watch. The events of the movie are truly mesmerizing, the performances by all actors stellar and direction brilliant. With another brilliant transfer and superb extras (which are worth the price of the disc alone!) from Fox there is no reason not to add this release to your collection. Superb.

Review By: Dave Warner


Note: All images in this article are Copyrightę Fox. They are only indicative of the movie and not sourced from the vastly superior Blu-Ray disc format.