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<i>Valkyrie</i>: A Morality Tale About English-Speaking Nazis There's always that conundrum for American-made, American-marketed films that depict something taking place in a foreign country. On one hand, it's ridiculous for the people in the film to be speaking English if they're in a non-English-speaking country like ... say, Germany. On the other hand, it would be hard to market said movie if it were in German with English subtitles.

Such is the conundrum with a movie such as Valkyrie. It's about Nazis in Germany during World War II, but the entire thing is in English. And it's a bunch of different English accents, too: British, American. But, unlike most movies that do this, Valkyrie at least has the nerve to acknowledge what it's doing. The movie starts out with Tom Cruise's character, Colonel Von Stauffenberg, writing a letter in German and reading it aloud in a voiceover, in German. Then it quickly switches to English, which seemed to be the movie's way of saying, "Yes, they're speaking German. Pretend they are speaking German, but you're hearing it in English." That doesn't make the conundrum go away, but it helps somewhat, at least.

And it's hard to hold it against Valkyrie, because it does several other things quite well.

Sure, there is some overly deliberate line reading from Cruise (maybe trying not to sound like such an American) -- who says things such as, "That is not enough for me. I must have the possibility of success" and "If I fail they will come for you. All of you." -- but it's otherwise a solid performance among a showcase of fine performances from Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Christian Berkel, Eddie Izzard (I know: Who would have expected him?), and David Bamber (not related to Jamie, as far as I can tell) as Hitler.

Valkyrie tells the true story of the last assassination attempt on Hitler's life. Cruise's von Stauffenberg is the guy who really stepped up and put everything on the line to make it happen. It's a true story, and it follows the details lined out on Wikipedia to a fault, but I don't want to give too much away here. Because for those who don't already know the story, it makes for a riveting, tense, suspenseful drama. (Those who don't mind being spoiled can read the full account here.) The basics are that a group of high-ranking officers in the German military were working from the inside to try to take down Hitler, to show that not all Germans were Nazis. It's a fascinating part of World War II that too many people know little or nothing about. And, if nothing else, Valkyrie, serves as a mainstream way to tell that story.

But it does more than that: It does it well. There is enough tension almost from the start to keep audiences riveted to the screen for the full two hours. This is despite the sometimes mundane military procedure explanations that are sure to fly over some heads. The humanity that comes through in this film is the most important thing about it -- more important than military operations ("Valkyrie" of the title is the name of a specific military operation) or even what language is being spoken. It's the reason this was an important film to make and why, whatever else we all think about Tom Cruise and his particular brand of cuckoo, he should be applauded for wanting so much to be part of a project like this one. After all, his character loses an eye, a hand, and fingers on the other hand at the start of the film, and Cruise wears an eye patch the rest of the way through. It's not a vanity project, but an important tale about people knowing what's wrong, and doing whatever they can to fight the power. And when that power is the Nazis, that's a frightening thing to do. It would take a pretty hardened person not to feel at least a little moved by Valkyrie.

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