Valkyrie (2009)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Brannagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Digital Copy

If there has been one movie of recent memory that I have been looking forward to with quite some excitement, it was "Valkyrie." Finally available in high definition from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, I was very eager to check it out the moment it arrived in our offices.

Towards the end of the World War II, many Germans realized the insanity of Hitler's plans and knew that German was on the brink of extinction because of one monster's disregard for all thing human. Considering the political situation and the stranglehold control the Gestapo and SS had over German citizens, no one dared to speak up, but a number of men knew that a change had to be made. Among those men is Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) who is dedicating his life to bring to en end Hitler's complete destruction of Europe in order to save the lives of millions of people.

He joins the Resistance and quickly his dedication and can-do attitude allows him to take the lead of the underground's most ambitious attempt to rid the world of Adolf Hitler. Becoming part of the Hitler's closest political advisors also, he is in a unique position in that he has direct access to the madman. His plan is simple but so audacious that it is hard to believe it could possibly work. He rewrites the official Operation Valkyrie orders which are to be executed in case Hitler dies and lets the Fü inconspicuously sign them. Then he plans to set off a bomb in Hitler's Wolf's Lair strategic headquarters, killing the dictator, and immediately set into motion Operation Valkyrie which will put him and the Resistance in charge while Hitler's elite guards remove all Gestapo and SS in one swift blow.

Based on real events, the film features a wonderful cast including Tom Cruise, Kenneth Brannagh, Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson and many other familiar faces, all of which help to bring this important moment in history to life. Director Bryan Singer created a movie here that is striking and impressive overall but it could have used a bit more character depth, I felt, because I personally had trouble connecting with some of the characters. In particular, it was hard for me to bond with some of the actual heroes. They were presented in such an impersonal and stand-off-ish fashion at times that they came across almost as bad guys. The intention here was no doubt to show that everyone had to keep up a facade, but also that some of the people in the underground did not altogether do what they did for purely idealistic reasons but for personal gain. It is very obvious that some of the players had serious political agendas and yet a little more likability wouldn't have hurt, felt, including von Stauffenberg's character. After all, these men were true heroes, giving their lives in order to bring down the maniac tyrant when no one else dared, and men like von Stauffenberg were driven entirely by humanistic motives, knowing well what would await them at the end of the line, and yet never hesitating for a moment to give it all up in order to bring the war to an end.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is dishing out a spectacular 1080p high definition transfer for the film on this release. Since it is a brand new movie, as expected, the image looks spectacular without a hint of defects or blemishes. The level of detail is wonderful, creating quite a sight with its sharp edges and overall definition. Colors are powerful, yet natural, creating a feel that always suits the scene perfectly. Whether it's the hot desert or Northern Africa, the cool forests of Prussia or any of the interiors, the colors are always lively and vibrant. The transfer's black levels are very deep, rendering deep shadows with every bit of detail intact while also giving solid visual depth to the overall presentation.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master audio track accompanies the movie and it, too, is everything you could hope for. Flawlessly reproducing the original master audio mix of the film, surround channels are aggressively engaged in both action scenes, as well as in moments where a lot of ambient noise is audible. The sound stage is very wide, making the best of the discrete surround format at all times, while also allowing the suspenseful musical score by John Ottman to breathe naturally and with solid dynamics.

The release comes packed with bonus materials, starting with a commentary track by Tom Cruise, director Bryan Singer and co-writer Christopher McQuarrie. It is a solid track that dives deep into the production, the history and the problems arising when making this film.
A second commentary is provided also, featuring Christopher McQuarrie with his writing partner Nathan Alexander. Once again, the history and the making of the film are discussed her in-depth with many notable and informative tidbits. Particular attention is being paid to the issue here to remain historically accurate while at the same time creating an engaging movie going experience.

A series of featurettes comes next on the disc, taking a look at the production from various angles. You will get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Africa sequence here, as well as looks at topics such as the aerial stunts and the recreation of wartime Berlin. "The Valkyrie Legacy" is a more historical look at the events, coupled with a look at the way the production itself came together in "The journey of Valkyrie".

As another extra, a digital copy of the film is provided on a separate disc.

I am exceedingly happy to see that the story of Claus von Stauffenberg has been given its dues as a big budget Hollywood movie for everyone to behold. Having grown up in Germany, having lived not 5 miles away from the Stauffenberg castle, his heroic story has been with me since my childhood. There is a lot more to this man's story than is being shown in this film, but regardless of that, it gives me great satisfaction to see his story come to life so vividly and explosively, showing the world that there were still sane and selfless people at work in Germany during the period. A little less popcorn blockbuster feel would have suited the film well, but ultimately I am always of the opinion that if a film makes history tangible, it is well worth it. "Valkyrie" certainly achieves that, so don't miss it.