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"Valkyrie" is based on the true events of the last attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944, when the German leadership had seen the writing on the wall and became desperate to avoid its total destruction at the hands of the advancing Allies. 

Maj. Gen. Henning von Tresckow (Kenneth Branagh) recruits Col. Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise), an outspoken officer who recently lost an eye and a hand in North Africa. Put on desk detail in Berlin, Stauffenberg suppresses his hatred for Hitler at Nazi military headquarters, working for the commander of the German reserve army (Tom Wilkinson).

Stauffenberg constructs a complicated, if plausible, plan to rid Germany of Hitler and take over the government, allowing them to negotiate a truce with the Allies before it's too late. First, Stauffenberg will kill Hitler with a small bomb. Then, he and his crew will initiate Operation Valkyrie, which exists to protect Hitler's government in case he dies.

The story is important, but what makes "Valkyrie" work is its characters. Whatever your feelings about Cruise's goofy Oprah-couch-as-trampoline ramblings about the evils of modern medicine and his penchant for younger women, he turns in a solid, thoughtful performance, anchoring the rest of the cast in the process.

Director Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie" is impressive in how it finds a new way to remind us how tragic, stupid and cowardly Hitler's vision of Germany was, and how its madness was just as dangerous to Germany as it was for the rest of the world.

"?Mike Robertson


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