Monday, November 17, 2008

Crash of The Valkyries

  Tom Cruise working hard at acting tough.

Its possible that Tom Cruise's new movie Valkyrie will be good, but I doubt it.  It has the stink of movies that fail before they even get started.  A vanity star vehicle, numerous re-writes, shooting troubles, re-shoots, delays in release, then finally a release date guaranteed to kill attendance.  Who wants to go to a film about a failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler on December 26?

I don't know why the movie was made in the first place.  Von Stauffenberg's coup was a keystone cops affair.  Poorly conceived and incompetently executed, it failed on every level.  Most importantly, the one absolutely key necessity, killing Hitler, was fumbled by Von Stauffenberg himself, twice.  Had Von Stauffenberg used all the explosives (which would have fit in the briefcase), he would have killed Hitler.  Had he set the bomb off himself, he would have killed Hitler.  But no.  Von Stauffenberg used half the available explosives, and fled the premises. Someone still at the meeting unknowingly moved the briefcase into a place where the bomb's damage was minimized.  Von Stauffenberg then took off for Berlin having failed to ascertain if Hitler was dead or not.  Incommunicado for several hours on a plane, his confederates could not communicate with him or coordinate the next steps.  But the wires from East Prussia started burning up right away with a very angry Hitler.  What hope the coup might have had faded before Von Stauffenberg arrived back in Berlin.  He was shot later that night.  Von Stauffenberg was that rare man, someone willing to bravely die for their country, singularly placed to have that sacrifice mean something, and then throwing that opportunity away through agonizing stupidity.

Von Stauffenberg is revered in German history.  This is because there were precious few examples of anti-Nazi activities through the entire war.  Not that the coup would have made much difference.  They were hoping that by deposing Hitler, they could induce the Americans and British to join them fighting the Soviets.  The chances of that happening were zero, as any reasonably bright 12 year old could have told them.

In truth, Von Stauffenberg's idiotic blundering removed any possibility of the war ending in 1944.  Just as both East and West fronts gave way and the Army was retreating in disarray, there would have been an opportunity for the military to topple Hitler.  Any combination of a dead Hitler and a conflicted, retreating Army would have arguably precipitated a general collapse of German resistance.   Instead of plotting, however, senior Army commanders were scurrying to hide from SS squads armed with piano wire and meathooks, bent on smoking out all the traitors responsible for the attempted coup.

Once you are aware of the story, its hard to believe anyone outside Germany thought it was worth a movie.  No matter what way you tell it, its a story of failure, missed opportunity and nasty revenge.  I'm predicting this is not a formula for holiday box-office success.  This is a movie that should never have been made.