A lot or a little?
Parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this tense World War II thriller based on a true story includes plenty of unflinchingly realistic, bloody violence (both on and off the battlefield), as well as several on-screen executions. The film includes extensive discussion of -- and assumes a certain familiarity with -- the crimes and history of Nazi Germany and could lead to lots of discussion with teens about topics like ethics, following orders, and more. Expect some swearing, drinking, and smoking.
What's the story?
In 1943, wounded German officer Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) comes home from service in Africa to serve in the Ministry of Defense in Berlin. There, a secret cabal of officers, civic leaders, and ex-military men inducts him into a secret plot to not only seize control of the German government, but also to kill German dictator Adolf Hitler. As the advancing Allies come closer and closer to Berlin, von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators must act boldly without being discovered, risking certain death against the possibility that Germany might be released from the yoke of Nazi rule.
Is it any good?
Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns), VALKYRIE turns a lesser-known historical footnote into a gripping, well-executed thriller. Cruise is surrounded by a terrific cast (including Kenneth Branagh, Terrence Stamp, and Bill Nighy) as his co-conspirators, while Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson plays a military commander trying to play both sides. After years of seeing German officers presented as bad guys in films, wrapping your head around the concept of German military men opposed to Hitler and his rule -- so opposed that they're willing to risk their lives and those of everyone they know -- is a tricky challenge.
Cruise is easy to watch -- von Stauffenberg is a cool customer constantly in danger of having the situation explode in his face -- but the real star of the film is Singer's superbly executed direction and engaging technical skill. Aided by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander's screenplay, Singer pulls an unexpected amount of suspense out of a story with a foregone conclusion; we know the conspirators didn't succeed. But there's plenty of tension to be found in showing how they tried -- and exactly how they failed. Valkyrie is a remarkably well-crafted thriller with plenty of food for thought between the explosions and ticking-clock suspense.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's central conflict between political decisions, military procedure, and ethical imperatives. While the men who plotted to kill Hitler were guilty of treason, were they working toward a greater good? Do their ends justify their means? How would the second World War have gone differently if they (or someone else) had succeeded in assassinating Hitler? Families can also discuss the film's use of American and English actors to play German citizens -- a Hollywood tradition, to be sure, but also a curious phenomenon. Does it make the movie less believable? Why or why not?
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