Valkyrie (2008) [Blu-ray]

Genre(s): Action / Thriller / War
MGM || PG13 - 120 minutes - $39.99 || May 19, 2009
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2009-06-01


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

.:: V I D E O ::.
Video

.:: A U D I O ::.
Audio

B L U - R A Y
.:: EXCLUSIVES ::.

Blu-ray Exclusives

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie & Nathan Alexander (written by)
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp


Theatrical Release Date: December 25, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • 2 Feature Commentaries
  • 7 Featurettes
  • Digital Copy


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese

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.::THE FILM::.

Bryan Singer’s World War II historical thriller is, surprisingly enough, one of the best thrillers of 2008. Prior to its release, after being delayed several times (August 8, 2008 --> June 27, 2008 --> October 3, 2008 --> February 13, 2009) before finally settling on Christmas Day. This only added fuel to a project that seemed to spell disaster for MGM and Cruise’s United Artist studio. But despite the setbacks, Valkyrie proved to be a modest box office and critical successes and for my money, it is truly one of the bigger surprises of ’08.

The story of Colonel Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) isn’t well known outside of Germany but it really is an amazing subplot in World War II. Stauffenberg along with a group of German soldiers and beaurocrats plan a daring plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, take control of the government and negotiate an end to the war. Involved with the plot are General Friedrich Olbricht (Bill Nighy), Ludwig Beck (Terence Stamp) and General Erich Fellgiebel (Eddie Izzard) amongst many, many others.

I think what’s most surprising that despite the ping-pong release dates and poor pre-release buzz, Valkyrie is a fantastic World War II thriller with great performances from Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson and Kenneth Branagh (in a small role). And while Tom Cruise doesn’t give his best performance of his career (my personal favorite goes to Magnolia), he is still a force to contend with, never going over the top (i.e. channeling his line delivery in A Few Good Men... “I WANT THE TRUTH!”). Between this and his cameo in Tropic Thunder, combined with a decent outing with Mission Impossible III, Cruise is back and has almost eradicated his antics made famous on “Oprah” and “The Today Show”.

I respect any filmmaker who can present a new aspect of a subject done to the extreme. Of course, Valkyrie does not match the quality levels of Saving Private Ryan, it also doesn’t flounder like Pearl Harbor. Credit goes to screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Nathan Anderson (debut) as well as director Bryan Singer, the man behind Superman Returns and the first two X-Men movies. If you’ve seen the original X-Men, you know his fascination with WWII so he was the perfect choice to helm this project.

The film also features some great performances from its supporting cast and together with the great screen presence of Cruise, it only further helps to present a cohesive war-thriller that maintains momentum from beginning to end.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

The Blu-ray comes with two feature commentaries, the first with Star/Producer Tom Cruise, Director Bryan Singer and Co-writer/Producer Christopher McQuarrie and the other with Writers/Producers McQuarrie and Nathan Anderson.

The Journey to Valkyrie (15:58; HD) – This is an overall look at the making of Valkyrie from how the project came about to filming in Berlin and trying to keep some accuracy.

The Road to Resistance: A Visual Guide (9:08; HD) – The featurette takes us through present day Berlin mixed in with some archive footage, photos and interviews where von Stauffenberg’s grandson takes us on a tour through Berlin. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

The African Front Sequence (7:01; HD) takes a behind-the-scenes look at how the first main sequence was filmed as well as the real life back story of the attack that disfigured Stauffenberg. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Taking to the Air (7:32; HD) is yet another behind-the-scenes featurette this time on the real vintage aircrafts used for filming and features interviews with various members of the crew. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

Recreating Berlin (6:51; HD) looks at how old Berlin was created in the modern city and try to get it historically accurate. I’m not sure why this and the other shorter featurettes couldn’t have been combined into a bigger ‘making-of’ documentary... ** Blu-ray Exclusives **

92nd Street Y (38:57; SD) is an extensive Q&A between Tom Cruise and Bryan Singer in front of a live audience at the cultural and community center in New York City. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **

The Valkyrie Legacy (42:34; HD) – Produced by Bryan Singer and directed by documentary expert Kevin Burns, this is a fantastic look at the real men who tried to assassinate Hitler and change the face of World War II. Out of any features, this is the one to watch.

And last is our good friend, the digital copy.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

First, the video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85 and in 1080p high-definition on a single 50GB BD disc. Early on I noticed the picture was littered with a ton of noise during darker scenes. I’m not sure why this happened but it’s not a visual style... So the visual, while high in detail, fails overall because of the level of noise, something that is unacceptable for a highly-budgeted Hollywood picture.

The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio fared a little better but still wasn’t a ‘wow’ audio experience. Dialogue levels were clear enough and some of the action sequences sounded pretty good, it just never really sounded as good as I expected.



.::OVERALL::.

Valkyrie is actually a surprisingly well made, well acted WWII action-drama. I know Tom Cruise has received much ridicule over the past few years for his on-camera antics but this film put him back near the top as it reminds you of how talented he is. I also know Singer fell a couple notches with the disappointing Superman Returns, but he too does a fantastic job cohesively making an action-drama that, while not nearly on par with other WWII dramas, still manages to make it suspenseful and entertaining.

As for the Blu-ray, the audio and video are not the greatest, especially the video due to a great amount of noise during certain scenes. However, where it sort of stumbles in those departments, it makes up for it with 5 exclusive featurettes.