Film (with rating): Valkyrie (PG-13)
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
Summary: A true and suspenseful tale about the German Resistance’s attempted coup and assassination of Adolf Hitler before the end of World War II.
Review: I’m not a huge fan of Tom Cruise the person. But I can tolerate Tom Cruse the Actor. Most of the time. In “Valkyrie,” I’m still on the fence–did Cruise the person damage the film, or was he just miscast?
In the movie, Cruise is the central persona, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, the mastermind behind the plot to kill Hitler and overthrow his fascist regime. Yet Cruise comes across as the same intense character he’s played in just about every blockbuster so far–“War of the Worlds,” “The Last Samuri”–except this time, he’s boasting an eyepatch.
While Cruise’s above-the-bar acting talents did buff the rough edges, I still couldn’t except him as the stoic and aristocratic von Stauffenberg. And the American accent didn’t help matters at all. I just kept seeing him as Tom Cruise, not von Stauffenberg. I couldn’t help think that another actor would have been less distracting.
Aside from Cruise, the rest of the cast actually was a pleasant, yet underplayed, treat. Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Bill Nighy and Eddie Izzard all added to the historical drama with their supburb performances, even if they were mostly underutilized.
“Valkyrie” in and of itself was quite watchable, even if it was a bit slow on the uptake. The settings are extraordinarily true to history, and the details are perfect. In fact, the story itself, the true-life tale of the Hitler assassination plot, is what’s notable here. Don’t worry if you know little of WWII history; in fact, the movie is better viewed if you’re not exactly sure how things unfold. Focus on the story, and you’ll enjoy the ride. While “Valkyrie” is no History Channel documentary, it’s no “All the President’s Men” either, unfortunately. It may not be the epic film I’m sure director Bryan Singer hoped it would be, but “Valkyrie” is definitely worth a view on DVD.
Extra highlight: “The Valkyrie Legacy”
What to serve for dinner: It’s a WWII flick about German Resistance. Let’s dish up a culinary classic of the region: bratwurst. For tonight, cook Bratwurst with Apples, Onion, and Sauerkraut (“Bon Apptit,” October 2007).
* 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
* 1 tablespoon Wondra flour
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 4 cups sauerkraut (preferably fresh), rinsed, drained, squeezed dry (from one 32-ounce jar)
* 1 large onion (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
* 4 large Golden Delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
* 6 whole smoked bratwurst (about 1 pound), pierced all over with skewer
* 4 bay leaves
* 1 cup beef broth
* 2 tablespoons dry vermouth
* 2 tablespoons ketchup
* 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
* Pumpernickel bread or whole grain
Position rack in center of oven preheated to 400 degrees. Place caraway seeds and fennel seeds in small resealable plastic bag. Crush seeds with mallet. Add flour and pepper to bag and shake to blend. Spread sauerkraut over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle 1/3 of flour mixture over. Arrange onion slices over; sprinkle with half of remaining flour mixture, then lightly with salt. Spread half of apple slices over, then sprinkle with remaining flour mixture. Place bratwurst over apples, then arrange remaining apple slices around bratwurst. Tuck in bay leaves. Mix broth, vermouth, and ketchup in measuring cup. Pour broth mixture evenly over. Cover tightly with foil. Roast bratwurst 45 minutes. Uncover; brush with melted butter. Roast uncovered until edges of apples and sausages begin to brown, about 25 minutes longer. Serve with bread and a green salad.
What to talk about over dinner: What do you think of Tom Cruise the Man? What’s your favorite Tom Cruise film? What’s your favorite historical drama? How would our history and the world be different if von Stauffenberg’s plan succeeded? Could there ever be another Adolf Hitler today? Why or why not? Could there ever be another war like that one? Why or why not? Who would have been a better von Stauffenberg?