Valkyrie Blu-Ray Review

Cover Art: 9/10 and Menus: 4/10
The cover is just right. The image is bold and gets your attention but not in the big name star kind of way. It’s menacing and stark. The menu, however, is sucky. There is no way to display the extras in a list, you have to scroll to each one, and it’s just not very convenient.

Features: 10/10

  • Audio Commentary By Tom Cruise, Bryan Singer, & Christopher McQuarrie – Cruise is a little too Hollywoody for me these days, but I really enjoy listening to Bryan Singer talk about his movies. They have a lot of tales to tell, in the boyish Hollywood big shot kind of way.
  • Audio Commentary By CoWriter/Producer Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander – If you want to watch the movie yet again and hear more about how the story came to be the subject of a film in the first place, this is the commentary for you. There’s more history here, less schmoozing.
  • Reel Pieces With Tom Cruise & Bryan Singer – The two big names talking about why they did the movie, what it meant to them to tell the real story, etc. This is a question and answer session given by the 92nd Street Y, with a host I wasn’t that keen on. She was a bit too star struck for my taste, but if you want to hear more about the movie, the message, the research they did for the whole process, this is a good source of information.
  • The Valkyrie Legacy Documentary – Almost 2 hours of historical footage and information about the movie, the true story, and Germany’s journey to recovering after WWII. An excellent addition to the disc!
  • The Journey To Valkyrie Featurette – How and why the movie got made at all, this is that feature. The write who started it all, the director who researched the facts, and the big name star who joined the project immediately when he read the script.
  • The Road To Resistance Featurette – The grandson of Col. Staphenberg, the man who attempted to kill Hitler in the movie and in real life, takes us on a tour of the real life places his family has lived, Berlin, and tells more about the truth behind the somewhat hidden tale of bravery in the face of evil during WWII.
  • The African Front Sequence Featurette – How did they blow up a bunch of dust, get Tom Cruise sweaty, and all those planes flying over the dessert to make it look like WWII in North Africa. This is a pretty packed little extra for being about just one segment of the movie.
  • Taking To The Air Featurette – The planes that fill the skies in the movie. If you are a flying geek, you’ll love it. I liked it, but not being that interested in vehicles, nor aviation, it’s more the history that caught my attention.
  • Recreating Berlin Featurette – More about how Berlin recovered after WWII with a lot of footage and memories from survivors of the times.
  • Digital Copy – It is what it is. A copy that is digital.

The Movie: 8/10
The negative stuff first, English speaking Germans, some American, some with British accents….. need I say more on that subject? No.

The good stuff is quite abundant, so let’s get to it. I have always been a movie fan, since I can remember being a kid in front of the old knobby TV with 3 channels and late night commercial riddled movies. One thing about a lifetime of watching movies is that at some point it became clear that I was learning, or “learning” about history, about people, about life through these characters and events that were taking place on the screen. It wasn’t until my more mature years that I learned to sort out the Hollywood spin on things and the reality, however tiny, that was the seed they used to recreate the tales they were telling.

That being said, Valkyrie is one of those stories I had no knowledge of whatsoever. I’m not well educated in world history, I know the basics and that’s about it. When you dig deeper than what we learned in school about WWII you do find that there was a hell of a lot more to it than Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Hitler. There are a lot of details we don’t learn from school books.

No, I’m not saying you should learn your history from movies, but this is what a film as good as Valkyrie does for me, it makes me think. It makes me wonder what else I don’t know and how knowing things like the fact that officers in Hitler’s regime plotted against him would have changed my perception of Germany all through my life.

Tom Cruise as a German soldier who has been seriously wounded in his service to his country sees that Hitler’s plan is failing. He, Stauffenberg, wants to bring the war to an end and salvage what’s left of his nation’s pride before the 3rd Reich destroys everything. Hitler was losing the war at the point when we enter the story. His troops are disposable followers, feeding the war meat grinder (as is always the case) when Stauffenberg hatches his plan to remove Hitler from power.

He finds that he is not alone. There is a group of higher up people in the government who have wanted to bring Hitler down but have not found a way. Through all of this my eyes opened to the real real reality that Hitler might have had many loyal followers, but not all German citizens agreed with him. Not all of his own government wanted to support his leadership, his choices, his horrible acts against Germany and Europe. There were people, as there always is, who wanted to stand up against it all, but they were afraid.

This movie does a good job of showing the paranoia of the times. Everyone is afraid to do anything, say anything, for fear of execution, or being sent to a concentration camp. It wasn’t as easy to hide away with your subversive ideas as we might think it was. The group of people who plotted and attempted to kill Hitler were both war criminals and traitors to their own leader, and that’s what this telling of the tale taught me.

There are always people who want to do the right thing, and in Nazi Germany it was no different.

The people in the film are excellent, of course. To be honest though, I would have been happy to have not seen a known face through the whole thing. I’m not a fan of the idea that you need a big name star to be the leading man. It’s not more credible, in fact, Tom Cruise is functional not anything special in this film, so it’s not even a big deal that he’s the main dude. He might have got more of a budget, which made it look awesome!! However, his performance was a lot of intense looks, stern speeches, jaw biting, and costume changes.

The look of the film, as I mentioned, is incredible. The authenticity, the details, it makes the time and every moment come to life. The sound is WOW, that’s all I can say about that. The costumes aren’t the charicature WWII clothes we see in a lot of movies. They have the weight of the era, the colors, the style, the real life worn look about them that makes it all come together without even noticing them (unless you are looking like I was).

Overall I really enjoyed (if that’s the right word) the movie. I would have liked it to be a German production with subtitles, but hey, can’t have it all. It got me thinking, and even looking up more about the things I have never learned about the war, so that’s a pretty huge thing for a flick to do for a 41 year old woman. 🙂

Audio & Video: 7/10 (by Ascully)
Valkyrie is a interesting Blu-Ray transfer as it’s not actually perfect like most of the discs we look at each week. The transfer is very good using the AVC codec at an average bitrate of 21MBPS. The film grain is intended by the director, but for me what was lacking was good black levels which actually affect the contrast of some scenes especially at night. The lack of sharpness also hurts a lot of the detailed shots. This was all probably intentional to give the film a certain look, but I expect more out of state of the art Blu-Ray discs in 2009. The movie also has a distinct color palette which favors yellow and adds a unique look to the picture. Again intentional but not to my taste. Overall while faithful to the directors vision the murky contrast and black levels really hurt the picture quality.

Audio is a different kettle of fish altogether. Using the DTS-HD Master Audio format in amazing ways. There are several standout scenes for audio, one being the African battle scene at the start of the picture which has sound so overwhelming you really feel like you are there. There is also more subtle effects like the scene where the family go down into the bomb shelter and you hear shells hitting targets many miles away in the distance. Valkyrie is a showcase disc for Audio, and the opening scene will be dragged out when I need to show off my home theater.

Value: 7/10
This is a well packed disc, great movie, extras, the digital’s all there. I still want the price to be around 15 bucks, that would be the great deal on movie. As it is it’s around $30, too much, but a good reason to check out your Blockbuster or Netflix account that’s just sitting there not getting used.

Overall Score 8/10