You Must Watch Valkyrie – Film Review: Hollywood History 101?

In mid 1944, the nadir of German internal resistance to the Nazis was reached with the ill fated attempt to kill Hitler. With DDay a success, those involved in the resistance had no doubt that the war was by now lost and only an immediate armistice could avoid more unnecessary bloodshed and further damage to Germany and its people. They resolved to act on July 20th 1944.

All history buffs know what happened next.

The man to place the bomb to kill Hitler was Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (played Tom Cruise). He was a patriot born into an aristocratic family who himself was morally opposed to Hitler’s brutal ways. Stauffenberg initially did not wish to join the resistance reasoning that all German soldiers had pledged allegiance to Hitler. As the war continued, he became disillusioned and even lost his left eye when serving in North Africa.

Ultimately the plot failed, the war dragged on and retributions were swift. A majority of the plotters were executed. Upon his own execution, Stauffenberg shouted out “Es lebe unser heiliges Deutschland!” (“Long live our holy Germany!”) so ending one of history’s great ‘what ifs?’ If the bomb successfully killed Hitler, would the war have ended quicker and saved millions?

This fascinating story was made into a major Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise and Kenneth Branagh.

Harking back to epic war films such as ‘A bridge too far’ and ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’, history and good old story telling is always a winning combination and the film is highly anticipated. Though, the film has not been without problems:

* The German government initially banned the production from shooting at locations around Berlin. Cruise’s scientologist background was seen as unfavourable. They later relented.

* 11 extras were injured when shooting one scene.

* Footage was ruined so entire scenes had to be reshot.

* The release date has been delayed and there is the minor issue of one of Germany’s great heroes having an American accent.

Past Hollywood attempts at covering world war two (WW2) have often been controversial. Films such as U-571 were deemed historically inaccurate while Pearl Harbor took a pivotal moment in the 20th century and turned it into an average but bloated film with Ben Affleck saving the day. The successes of good WW2 films far outweigh the disappointments with films such as ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘The Thin Red Line’, ‘The Pianist’, Schindler’s list’, ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ and the TV series ‘Band of Brothers’ all critical and commercial successes.

History themed films are not only pure entertainment; they can be educational and let viewers gain an insight into the past and a sense of empathy. The French film ‘Days of Glory’ told the little known story of African colonial soldiers who fought for France in WW2; after then French president Jacques Chirac saw this film, he fully restored pensions to the ex-soldiers which were stopped after the colonies became independent.

Spike Lee made the ‘Miracle at St Anna’ which tells the little known story of African American soldiers fighting in WW2 Europe. Spike Lee was no doubt influenced by the film ‘Glory’. A little known gem that tells of the first All Black Union fighting unit in the American Civil war and how they went from slaves to respected men in uniform. This film launched the careers of a certain Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

Hollywood for all its intents wants to entertain us. If watching a film with a slightly inaccurate script or Tom Cruise trying to kill Hitler can let an apathetic teenager learn about the horrors of concentration camps , the sacrifices made by the ‘greatest generation’ or noblemen who tried to change the course of history then surely Hollywood are doing something right.

Published by Wandering & Travelling

A travel website which shares custom made travel itineraries and also covers the arts and culture.

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