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Plot

During World War II, Wehrmacht Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is severely wounded in Tunisia, and is evacuated home to Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Major General Henning von Tresckow (Branagh) attempts to assassinate Adolf Hitler by smuggling a bomb aboard the Führer's private airplane. The bomb, however, fails to detonate and Tresckow safely retrieves it to conceal his intentions. After learning that the Gestapo has arrested Major Hans Oster, he orders General Olbricht (Nighy) to find a replacement. After recruiting Stauffenberg into the German Resistance, Olbricht delivers Stauffenberg to a meeting of the secret committee which has coordinated the previous fourteen attempts on Hitler's life. The members include General Ludwig Beck (Stamp), Dr. Carl Goerdeler (McNally), and Erwin von Witzleben (Schofield). The Colonel is stunned to learn that no plans exist for after Hitler's assasination.

After a bombing raid on Berlin, he lights upon using the plan Operation Valkyrie, which involves the deployment of the Reserve Army to maintain order in the event of a national emergency. The plotters carefully redraft the plan so that they can dismantle the Nazi regime after assassinating Hitler. Realizing that only General Fromm (Wilkinson), the head of the Reserve Army, can initiate Valkyrie, they offer him a position as head of the Wehrmacht in a Post-Nazi Germany and recruit him into the fold. With the rewritten plan needing to be signed off by Hitler (Bamber), Stauffenberg visits the Führer at his Berghof estate in Bavaria. In the presence of his inner circle, Hitler praises Stauffenberg's heroism in North Africa and signs off on the plan without fully examining the modifications.

At Goerdeler's insistance, Stauffenberg is ordered to assassinate both Hitler and SS head Himmler at the bunker Wolf's Lair. At a final briefing, Colonel Mertz von Quirnheim (Berkel) instructs the committee members in how to use pencil detonators. Stauffenberg also reaches out to General Fellgiebel (Izzard), who controls all communications at Wolf's Lair, to cut off communications after the bomb blast. On July 15, 1944, Stauffenberg attends a strategy meeting at Wolf's Lair with the bomb in his briefcase, but with Himmler not present at the meeting, Stauffenberg does not get the go-ahead from the committee leaders until the meeting is over. Meanwhile, the Reserve Army is mobilized by Olbricht, unbeknownst to Fromm, to stand by. With no action taken, Stauffenberg safely extracts himself and the bomb from the bunker, and the Reserve Army is ordered to stand down, believing that the mobilization was training. Enraged, Stauffenberg to the committee to protest the indecisiveness and blames the bungling of Goerdeler, who has been selected to be chancellor after the coup. When Goerdeler demands that Stauffenberg be relieved, Beck informs him that the SS is searching for him and implores him to leave the country.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg and his adjutant Lieutenant Haeften (Parker) return to the Wolf's Lair. To Stauffenberg's dismay, he discovers that the conference is being held in an open-window summer hut, where the plotters had intended to detonate the bomb within the walls of the bunker for maximum damage. While his adjuntant waits with a getaway car, Stauffenberg leaves the briefcase at the meeting. He calls for the go-ahead from the committee, but without Himmler at the meeting, no order is given by Beck or Olbricht. Stauffenberg talks to Mertz and agrees to go ahead with the assassination. With the bomb armed, Stauffenberg leaves the hut for the getaway car. When the bomb explodes, Stauffenberg is certain that Hitler is dead and flees the Wolf's Lair. Before shutting down communications, Fellgiebel calls Mertz about the explosion but cannot clearly convey whether or not the Führer is dead.

As Stauffenberg flies back to Berlin, Olbricht refuses to mobilize the Reserve Army until he knows without a doubt that Hitler is dead. Behind Olbricht's back, Mertz forges his signature and issues the orders anyway. With Operation Valkyrie underway, Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters order the arrest of all SS officers and begin to take control of Berlin's government quarter, which will allow them to command the entire Reich. Rumors reach Berlin that Hitler survived the blast, but Stauffenberg dismisses them as SS lies. Meanwhile, Fromm learns from Field Marshal Keitel that Hitler is still alive. The General refuses to join the plotters, resulting in his arrest. When Hitler reaches the Reserve Army by telephone, the SS officers are released and the plotters are besieged inside the Bendlerblock. They are all arrested and shot without trial.

Cast

Tom Cruise stars as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the Wehrmacht Colonel who masterminded the conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Singer saw Stauffenberg as "very much a humanist", saying, "He understood his role as a colonel, but he also understood that the Nazis were doing terrible, terrible, terrible things." Having directed Superman Returns, Singer compared Stauffenberg's dual identity as loyal colonel and conspirator to Superman and his civilian identity Clark Kent.[1] Cruise wanted to work with Singer since they met at the premiere for Mission: Impossible, and the actor was enticed by the script's background, the truth of which struck him as a surprise.[2] The actor described Stauffenberg's heroism, "I thought of it in terms of what Stauffenberg represents. He was someone who realized that he had to take the steps that ultimately cost him his life... He recognized what was at stake."[3] Cruise felt Stauffenberg did not think of himself as a hero.[4] The actor prepared for the role for eight months by hiring a researcher, studying history books, and speaking with some of von Stauffenberg's family.[5] Since Stauffenberg lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers on his left hand in an Allied attack in Tunisia, Cruise affected the same disabilities to practice dressing, moving items and writing.[3] Cruise initially found the eyepatch difficult to work with but acknowledged that Stauffenberg had to live with this discomfort.[4]

Other cast members:

  • Kenneth Branagh portrays Major General Henning von Tresckow.[6] Branagh differed physically from the real Tresckow, who was balding, but Singer said "Branagh, if you look at Tresckow's energy, he had an honesty that Branagh has."[7]
  • Bill Nighy portrays General Friedrich Olbricht.[6] Nighy was cast to give a sympathetic quality, so Olbricht would not be the "fall guy". Nighy wanted to convey Olbricht as divided between complaining about Hitler's regime and actually doing something about it.[4] The actor described his portrayal, "One of the most disconcerting things imaginable is to put on a Nazi uniform. It's so associated with evil that it took me several days to get used to being in costume."[8]
  • Terence Stamp portrays Colonel General Ludwig Beck.[6] Singer met Stamp to discuss playing a part in X-Men, having admired him for portraying General Zod in Superman II. Stamp endured the Blitz as a child and aided Singer in staging a scene where the Stauffenbergs hide from the Allied bombings.[9] The actor described his approach to portraying Beck: "There has to be a kind of non-judgmental discernment, so when I'm playing villains, they don't think they're particularly villains." The actor sought to find "the part of Terence that would be prepared to fall on his sword for certain ideals."[1]
  • Tom Wilkinson portrays Colonel General Friedrich Fromm, head of Germany's Reserve Army. Wilkinson was cast to make the treacherous Fromm sympathetic.[4]
  • Carice van Houten portrays von Stauffenberg's wife, Nina Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg. The filmmakers were impressed by her performance in Black Book, and argued she could give a strong performance with minimal dialogue. Nathan Alexander spoke to von Stauffenberg's relatives and noted although Nina and Claus never directly spoke about the plot, "in a sense it was all they talked about".[4]
  • Kevin McNally portrays Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, a German politician who intends to become chancellor of Germany after a successful coup.
  • David Schofield portrays Erwin von Witzleben, a retired Field Marshal and one of the plotters.
  • Christian Berkel portrays Colonel Albrecht Ritter Mertz von Quirnheim, a plotter with knowledge of explosives. As portrayed, Berkel's character also incorporates the story of Wessel von Freytag-Loringhoven, the 20 July conspirator who actually furnished Stauffenberg with the explosives.
  • Jamie Parker portrays Lieutenant Werner von Haeften, an adjutant to Stauffenberg who helps the colonel carry out the plot.
  • Eddie Izzard portrays General Erich Fellgiebel, a German officer responsible for communications at Hitler's bunker Wolf's Lair.
  • David Bamber portrays Adolf Hitler, the Führer of Germany.
  • Thomas Kretschmann portrays Major Otto Ernst Remer, head of a Reserve Army battalion.
  • Harvey Friedman portrays Dr. Joseph Goebbels, a member of Hitler's inner circle.
  • Kenneth Cranham portrays Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, the head of the OKW and a member of Hitler's inner circle.
  • Matthias Freihof portrays Heinrich Himmler, the head of Schutzstaffel and a member of Hitler's inner circle.

Other portrayals of Nazis included Gerhard Haase-Hindenberg as Hermann Göring, Anton Algrang as Albert Speer, Werner Daehn as Major Ernst John von Freyend, Waldemar Kobus as Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorf, Tom Hollander as Colonel Heinz Brandt, Helmut Stauss as Dr. Roland Freisler, and Matthew Burton as Lieutenant-General Adolf Heusinger. Patrick Wilson was originally cast in Valkyrie, but he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and other unspecified reasons.[10]

Some of the non-German actors initially experimented with German accents, but Singer discarded the idea, instead instructing them to adopt neutral accents that "[wouldn't] distract from the story".[5] Singer added he was not making a docu-drama and wanted to make the story engaging.[4]

Production

Development

Director Bryan Singer and writer Christopher McQuarrie often made World War II films in their backyards while growing up in New Jersey, and Singer later dealt with Nazi subject matter in Apt Pupil and X-Men.[11] Singer first learned of the plot in the early 1980s when his mother visited Bonn and met Freya von Moltke, widow of Helmuth von Moltke, a founder of the Kreisau Circle resistance group.[12] McQuarrie visited Berlin in 2002 while researching another project when he saw the memorial to Stauffenberg at the Bendlerblock. The writer was moved and fascinated as he researched the Germans who united against Adolf Hitler, who were aware of what would happen if they failed their assassination attempt, and wanted to make their story more well known.[4] The screenwriter sought to model the story after the 2001 TV film Conspiracy, which depicted the Wannsee Conference at which the Nazis planned the Final Solution.[13]

After Singer completed the three major productions X-Men (2000), X2 (2003) and Superman Returns (2006), he sought a smaller project before embarking upon the eventually aborted sequel to Superman Returns.[5][14] Singer learned about the World War II screenplay McQuarrie had written with Nathan Alexander. As he signed on to direct, Singer read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer to gain deeper understanding of Nazi Germany's political landscape, and also met with one of Hitler's bodyguards, Rochus Misch,[15] who was the last person to leave the bunker where Hitler committed suicide. The creative team acknowledged the controversy over the enigmatic Stauffenberg's true motivation, but Singer and McQuarrie judged him to be a man of ethics just from what he did.[4] Though McQuarrie sought for Valkyrie to be similar to Conspiracy, Singer had bigger ambitions, wanting to be more than "old men in rooms, talking". Singer looked back on his decision, saying, "The true story had all the makings of a classic assassination thriller... I knew if I could keep the audience with Stauffenberg, with his mission, they would go with the flow and be less inclined to start hypothesising on things from history."[13]McQuarrie suggested they bring the project to United Artists partners Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise, who immediately agreed to finance the film in March 2007.[16] Singer invited Tom Cruise to take the lead role, which Cruise accepted.[17] Cruise had been provided a picture of Stauffenberg, in which the actor noticed a similarity in his profile with the German colonel, drawing him to the role.[18] The director and the screenwriter initially anticipated Valkyrie as a "small" film with a budget of under US$20 million and to be completed within several months,[19][20] but Cruise's interest in playing Stauffenberg made Singer realize his involvement could broaden the film's publicity and therefore its budget.[7] The film's budget was then raised to $60 million.[21]

Germany's Finance Ministry had originally denied the producers the right to film at Bendlerblock, explaining that the site should be treated as a "place of remembrance and mourning" which would "lose dignity if we were to exploit it as a film set". The producers were also denied a request to film at a Berlin police station by the department, citing adverse impact to the facility.[22] The German government eventually had a change of heart concerning the Bendlerblock site and gave permission for filmmakers to shoot there.[23] A United Artists spokesman said that they were "very grateful" for the decision, saying that the site "[had] always been important to us symbolically, creatively and for the sake of historical authenticity" and that the company had been in continuous talks with the German government in order to clear up any misconceptions about the nature of the film.[24] The Memorial to the German Resistance also helped filmmakers by permitting them access to their materials and documents.[25] German military pageantry was shaped by referring to the recorded material and advice from military advisers.[2]

Filming

Filming began on July 18, 2007 in Berlin.[26] Production of Valkyrie was then estimated to have a budget of US$80 million, with two-thirds to be spent in Germany.[27] The German Federal Film Fund issued €4.8 million[28] (US$6.64 million) to United Artists to assist with production.[27] The filmmakers received permission to film at Tempelhof International Airport's Columbia Haus, a former Nazi jail for political prisoners. Production also involved World War II planes with swastikas painted on the sides, practicing in the airspace above Brandenburg.[29] Around 70 sets were built for the film.[5] The filmmakers also shot on location at the former Luftwaffe headquarters and the exterior of the house Stauffenberg stayed at with his brother.[4]

A replica set of Hitler's Eastern Front Headquarters Wolf's Lair was constructed 60 kilometers south of Berlin, though the headquarters' actual location was in modern-day Poland.[29] It took twelve weeks to build.[4] Filming also took place in some of the houses which were used to hide the bombs in 1944.[30] The interior of Hitler's Bavarian residence Berghof was also replicated using film shot by Hitler's consort Eva Braun and designing models of furniture possessed by secretive collectors.[31] The production also made use of surviving Nazi relics, including furniture used by the Reich Ministry and objects that once adorned Hitler's desk.[5] Nazi symbols, the display of which is usually illegal in Germany, were also used at several locations, and while the filmmakers gave forewarnings to local residents,[26] a passerby witnessing the use of swastikas during filming in Berlin filed an official complaint with the city. Similar charges have also been filed against the owners of sites set up to show Nazi displays for the film's production.[32] Filming also took place at Babelsberg Studios.[33] During filming on August 19, 2007, eleven people were hurt when the side panel of a truck they were riding broke, with one person requiring hospitalization.[34] They demanded $11 million in compensation, rejecting a settlement offered by the studio.[35]thumbnail|left|Bendlerblock, where the conspirators were executed in real life, was used for the scene of Stauffenberg's execution Before filming the scene of Stauffenberg's execution at Bendlerblock, Tom Cruise led the cast and crew in holding a moment of silence,[36] "out of respect for the place and out of respect for the life achievement of these people who were executed there," according to actor Christian Berkel.[37] After filming of the scene was completed, the footage was sent to be developed for the post-production process at a processing plant in Germany. The wrong chemical was accidentally used in development, damaging the film and requiring the crew to seek permission from the government to re-shoot the scenes. Permission was granted and a spokesman for the film indicated the schedule and budget had not been affected.[38][39]

Singer and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel chose different styles for the separate halves of the film. Elegant camerawork such as cranes were used as the plot builds to the attempt on Hitler's life, and the second half is frantic with handheld cinematography as the plotters are hunted down. The colors in the film also become more intense as the story continues. Sigel focused on red, the color of the Nazi flag, which he felt represented the violence of their ideology. Singer looked towards thrillers of the 1940s and home movies shot by Eva Braun for inspiration. Shooting scenes at night was difficult because presenting historical accuracy of the era required blackouts. Sigel noted in real life, car headlights were used for the firing squad to aim at and execute the plotters in the Bendlerblock.[4] Singer chose to shoot in 1:85 aspect ratio, and since filming took place in Germany, the director used Arriflex cameras with Zeiss lenses.[2]

The Tunisia battle sequence that opened the film was the last major sequence filmed. The filmmakers wanted to avoid the appearance that Stauffenberg wanted to kill Hitler because of the injuries he suffered in the battle. They began a rough cut in October 2007, and between then and June 2008, there were several test screenings without the battle sequence. By June 2008, the filmmakers felt that they knew how to adequately frame the characters when filming the battle sequence.[40] Singer scouted Jordan and Spain for locations, but the candidates did not meet the aesthetic and economic criteria.[2] The Cougar Buttes desert in California was ultimately chosen to represent Tunisia.[41] Since the production budget was adjusted to provide visual effects to make Stauffenberg's injuries realistic, not enough was left for computer-generated fighter planes. Singer instead used two P-40 Warhawks in the battle sequence.[31] The budget increased in the course of production due to the filming in Germany, the rebuilding of sets, and lost shooting days, but German tax rebates tempered the growth.[21] The studio reported its final production budget to be $75 million, but competing studios believed it to be closer to $90 million.[42]

Visual effects

The film's visual effects were created by Sony Pictures Imageworks, who collaborated with Bryan Singer on Superman Returns. The VFX company's two key goals were to accurately portray Stauffenberg's injuries and to create a 1943 period look to Berlin.[43] With many explosions and stunts seen in the film performed practically, the majority of the 800 computer-generated effects shots was used to portray Stauffenberg's injuries.[7] A digital version of Cruise's hand was designed, and VFX employees rotoscoped the hand in every movement it could make so the missing fingers were erased in the process. With many close-ups of Stauffenberg's hand with missing fingers, the injuries were textured to look like actual scars, particularly based on surgical procedures from 1943. Cruise asked for advice to best move his hands so visual effects would be easier to apply, but some challenges, such as Stauffenberg getting dressed on his own, were inescapable. According to VFX supervisor Rich Hoover, "We know from historical accounts that Von Stauffenberg didn't stick his hands in his pockets to try and hide his injuries."[43]

For the battle sequence in North Africa, the two actual P-40 Warhawks used were accompanied by cloned images of them or by computer-generated planes. In scenes showing squadrons of soldiers, digital extras were not used; instead, photography of real squadrons was cloned. Sony Pictures Imageworks also digitally expanded details on stage locations and at practical locations. The exterior of Hitler's Bavarian residence Berghof was digitally created, since little was left of the original structure, and the creation was superimposed on a shot of a ski area in Austria. In Berlin itself, city officials helped reduce the need for visual effects by removing power poles and modern lighting over the weekend when filming took place and restoring the equipment by the start of the new week.[43]

Editing and scoring

As with his previous collaborations with Bryan Singer on The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns and X2, editor and composer John Ottman edited the film without a temp track, noting if the film was working well without music, then it was becoming a strong product.[44] Ottman said the challenge on Valkyrie was to create tension from dialogue scenes, and he often reshaped scenes to do this: moments rather than whole scenes were cut from the film.[20] Being historically accurate meant Ottman was more restricted in reorganizing scenes, but he was able to choose what lines and close-ups he could focus on.[45] Ottman said the scene he was most saddened to delete was a scene where Stauffenberg dances with his wife because he had been looking forward to scoring it.[20]

Ottman originally planned to compose a minimal score to Valkyrie, but found that despite the film's dialogue-heavy nature, the film needed music to create a thriller atmosphere. Ottman described the new approach, "It's very much like Usual Suspects – in order to keep the tension going in a scene where there's really a lot of dialogue, we had to rely on a lot of score. But the score is done in a very sort of pulsating, subliminal way. It's not an expository score, it's more like a running pulse going through the movie."[46] Singer applied an imaginary metronome, "which only began clicking" when he watched scenes where the pace was becoming faster. He had a specific theme he wanted for the film, which was more modern than the "The Winds of War"-type score he expected Ottman to do.[45] Another challenge in composing thriller music was that the score needed to "slowly lapse" into the tragedy of the film's ending.[47] The finished score has some percussion instruments and few brass, but no snare drums or trumpets, which were the conventions Singer and Ottman avoided.[45]

Ottman had to compose music for the North African battle before the scene was shot, because booking space to record film music is difficult. Although he found that composing music based on the script results in overlong pieces, he felt the music worked out fine for the sequence. The film's end credits piece, "They'll Remember You", is an original composition, but the lyrics were based on the poem Wanderer's Nightsong by German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.[44] An end piece entitled "Long Live Sacred Germany" was inspired by Adagio for Strings, in the sense it would not feel like film music tailored to every moment in the scene, but still fit with what was going on. Ottman described the original version of the track as a "three minute drone that I slowed down with these two Tuvan throat singers, the whole thing was this horribly dark, morbid piece [which] left you cold." Ottman composed a metallic motif for Hitler, which was formed by low strings and a piano cluster.[45]

Valkyrie Trailor

Valkyrie Trailer 200802:31

Valkyrie Trailer 2008

See also

References

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External links

Template:Bryan Singer

da:Operation Valkyrie de:Operation Walküre – Das Stauffenberg-Attentat et:Valkyrie es:Valkyria fr:Walkyrie (film) it:Operazione Valchiria (film) he:מבצע ואלקירי (סרט) nl:Valkyrie (film) ja:ワルキューレ (映画) no:Valkyrie (film) pl:Walkiria (film) ru:Операция «Валькирия» (фильм) tr:Valkyrie (film) zh:瓦爾基里計劃

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